Holter on the loose

22 March, 2007

Act now to ensure inevitable health warnings aren't silly or unconvincing

The government would sort of like the drinks industry to put health warnings on its labels to discourage pregnant women from consuming alcohol. Not enough to actually make this a legal requirement: no, it's hoping

a frightened trade will snap into action and introduce a voluntary scheme.

I've yet to see proof that the occasional glass of wine can jeopardise a pregnancy. I have, however, seen plenty of evidence that consuming excess alcohol can make certain people extremely violent

and

quickly make any human

unfit to drive . I'm also pretty convinced that too much booze can destroy your liver, your marriage and your dignity.

So why focus the message on pregnant women, especially when many health practitioners don't take the same zero-tolerance approach? It's an unsatisfactory, half-baked plan which takes unfair advantage of a drinks trade that is trying to have a sensible conversation with the government.

Health warnings are almost certainly coming. Let's agree on a sensible approach now, rather than introduce silly, unconvincing messages that confuse a public which doesn't yet

understand alcohol units.

Brands set packaging pace

Tesco has raised the bar with its new own-label designs. The entry-level South Africans

at last week's tasting retail at £3.49 but look worthy of a £6.99 price tag. And some of the new Finest packaging is also head and shoulders above most branded alternatives in the same price bracket.

It's pretty fashionable to knock the big retail chains, especially when it comes to their wine offering, but these companies have frequently led the way with their

branding. As Mike Paul, now chairman of Wine Intelligence, recently said: producers should be careful about blaming retailers for wine's problems

because the retailers have generally done more to boost wine sales than suppliers ever have .

Tesco is not the only over-achiever in the own-label arena - Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and several others have all taken some great strides. But the work Tesco is doing with Neil Tully MW, of Amphora Design, is certainly setting the pace

now.

An inconvenient truth

The retail trade is full of supposedly "missed opportunities"

and I'm sure shop owners are sick

of being lectured about how to run their businesses. But it is amazing how poor the wine selection is in so many convenience stores.

The point was well made by former Somerfield head buyer Angela Mount at Wine Intelligence's fifth birthday celebration and debate last week. Why settle for mediocrity, she pondered, when you have a captive audience in front of you?

At a time when the biggest wine retailers are scoring

successes with fine wine, the convenience sector would do well to work on the £7-£10 end of their ranges. Do they realise how many of their customers are walking away?




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