Rosé needs more style

28 May, 2010

The future of the rosé category is in danger of being damaged by shopper confusion over the fixture and a glut of me-too products.

That was the view of Tesco product development manager James Griswood at a seminar on the Rosé Revolution, hosted by Wines of Navarra and Off Licence News at the London International Wine Fair.

Griswood used the label descriptions of three pink wines – together accounting for 30% of the UK off-trade rosé market – to show how it was virtually impossible for a consumer to discern what style of wine they were drinking.

“The tasting notes say nothing about whether the wine is dry or sweet,” he said. “You could be putting the consumer off for life because they’re making the wrong choices,” he warned brand owners and representatives of leading rosé-producing regions, such as Navarra and Provence.

Griswood said Provence was a great example of a rosé style that brought something different to the category in flavour profile and packaging, but added that too many producers were entering rosé because they felt they couldn’t afford not to, but did so without offering consumers anything new.

“New doesn’t just mean bringing out more and more products,” Griswood said. “A lot of new rosés coming on to the market are just a standard bottle, colour and flavour profile.”?The reason so many producers want a pink wine, of course, is because the category has been the wine sector’s one unqualified success of the past few years.

Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt said that indexed against sales in 2000, rosé was currently at 760, compared with 163 for white and 148 for red.

But the image of rosé is still relatively downmarket, with 41% of sales coming from blends or wines without a varietal statement and pitched at the value end of the market.

Pink wines come from a mixed bag of production methods with wildly varying residual sugar levels, and on a colour scale from borderline grey to pale red, the seminar crowd heard.

Regions such as Navarra, which have strict controls over colour, favour the higher-quality bleeding methods of production and charge premium prices for food wines, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

“The fact that a wine is pink ticks one box for a lot of consumers, and the fact that it tends not to be an extravagant purchase ticks another,” said Blunt.

Griswood claimed the average price of rosé was £3.93 against £4.23 for total wine, and that it had “given people a cheap option in the recession”.

But rosé’s growth is more sustained than just recession busting. Griswood said Tesco had responded to interest in the category as long ago as 2007 by doubling the space for rosé and adding 30 lines.

And Marks & Spencer winemaker Jo Ahearne MW said the retailer was seeing average prices for rosé at £5.27, significantly ahead of the market.

“There are different types of rosé consumer and it’s not one-size-fits-all. Rosé drinkers are receptive to innovation. People are embracing off-dry rather than overtly sweet styles, looking for something that’s fruity and pleasurable rather than on the cloying side.

“We need to have a range of styles to give people the room to experiment.”?The M&S own-label policy gives it control over the wine it puts in the bottle, but other big retailers rely on brands to drive the market.

Liz Ashdown, marketing manager for Blossom Hill at Percy Fox, said brands had an important role to play in shaping the future of the rosé market, with the top 10 rosé brands accounting for 50% of total category sales, compared with just 17% for red and 16% for white.

Ashdown said: “There’s a need for brands to bring in a choice of styles, to broaden out the category and reach new consumers.”?She said more brand investment was needed to fully realise rosé’s potential.

“I feel the trade is a little confused about where to go. The consumer has found rosé but have we fully capitalised on that? Pimm’s invests £5 million every year to position itself as the perfect summer drink, even though it’s an established part of British life. Why can’t we do the same with rosé??“The macro trends around lighter drinks and warmer weather are all in rosé’s favour and the growth headroom feels like it is there.”?Getting the right mix of products sold in the most effective way could be key to making sure that it is.

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