France must unite, say UK campaigners

08 July, 2009

Around 25 UK retailers and importers are urging France to develop a unified promotional body to market wines in the UK or risk a further decline in sales.

The campaign has been dubbed Plan B, and campaigners include Tesco, Morrisons, PLB and Bibendum.

“We are united in the belief that France needs to change the way it promotes its wine in the UK if it is ever to regain – or even stabilise – its market share,” the Plan B campaigners wrote in a letter to Agriculture & Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier, seen by OLN.

France has slipped into fifth place, behind not just Australia and the US, but also Italy and South Africa by volume in the 12 weeks to June 13, according to Nielsen, and remains in third place behind Australia and the US by value.

Guy Anderson, owner of Guy Anderson Wines, who is leading the campaign, said: “The importers need to persuade their suppliers to use some of their levies to fund a generic campaign.”

“French regions need to learn not to be selfish about protecting their own interests and promote France as one,” said PLB managing director Peter Darbyshire.

Thierry’s commercial director Matthew Dickinson added: “France needs to use its strengths to market to the UK consumer in a unified fashion.”

“I have just returned from South Africa, where producers place national benefit ahead of personal gain, but in France there are disputes within regions as well as between them, as highlighted in the Loire and the rosé debates,” said Tesco’s Graham Nash. “There could be much better progress achieved from the regions working together, perhaps enabling France to stabilise and even grow its market share.”

The campaigners want the 21 bodies representing France’s regions to team up with France Agrimer (formerly Viniflhor) and pay 50% towards a generic marketing campaign in the UK. The other half would be funded via the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries.

They are calling for a meeting with the regional bodies and Barnier.

Until last year, Viniflhor had a large budget to promote French wines in UK retail chains, but since January European law has restricted member states from directly promoting in this way in member states, so any generic, country-wide campaign needs to be part-funded by regional bodies. But the regional bodies have refused to take part in such an initiative, the letter explained.

“The regions must know that, while on the French market they are rivals, in the UK their strength lies in them being seen as part of a greater France,” it said.

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