Get more out of France

12 December, 2008

Christine Boggis gleans advice from buyers, suppliers and producers on swelling French wine sales

Wine buyers: What is the key to selling French wine?

Graham Nash, Tesco: "Ensure that qualitatively the wine stacks up, is at the right price and is in the right bottle with good presentation. "

Michelle King, Asda: "Keep it simple and put the customer first."

Simon Field MW, Berry Bros & Rudd: "We are very keen on the educational side here. We do wine schools, lectures

and WSET courses. We try to bring people into the company through

our wine clubs

and we try and get

them to upgrade from the wine club to Cellar Plan, where we lay down wines for them. There is a whole stream of opportunity for education,

from the basics of what a wine is all the way up to which white Burgundy you should lay down for how long.

Melissa Draycott, Sainsbury's: "Good quality

own-label wines, including flagship Taste the Difference, using top quality producers covering the classic regions, coupled with brands that are performing well , varied promotions , a mix of price points, higher -end wines, as well as lower price points to bring in new, younger customers. Telling the customers on the label what they are going to be drinking, including the grape variety

and also giving a tasting note on the back."

Richard Verney, Oddbins: "You have to have a complete and thorough range, offering something at every price point. Our customers are very interested in France, but their understanding is patchy - so having knowledgeable staff is key to encouraging a purchase."

Suppliers: What does French wine need to progress in the UK?

Richard Evans, Dedicated Wines: "Focus. For me it is very simple: you have got

to play to your strengths. The French image is all about quality, history, good food, good wine and a good standard of living. That is what we do, so let's not try to be New World lookalikes. Every time that we as a company focus on th ese key issues, it works . It doesn't matter whether it is a chateau from Bordeaux or a brand like La Différence, there are a bunch of consumers out there who buy into the French message.

It is really no more complicated than that. Just focus on what you do best, and don't get distracted into other stuff."

Katie Jones, Mont Tauch: "French wine needs to be easier for the consumer

to understand and promoted as a whole instead of by region. France should

aim to create a stronger image through PR and by creating a representative

within the UK. France still needs to

work on developing stronger brands

and this is something Mont Tauch has been investing heavily in over recent years."

Nadine McCallion, Guy Anderson Wines: "Education is always important. A reputation is not enough, understanding

is needed, especially if consumers are expected to pay more - in less affluent times - for French wines.

"Strong and consistent brands will also play more of a role in the future, but avoiding brand boom and bust will be important. Within the structures of French wine production, the closer the grower is to the consumer, the more likely it is that he or she will be producing the right styles of wine and pricing and packaging it correctly.

"This is taking place, for example with

co-ops merging and creating their own commercial arms, and good négociants communicating more effectively with their growers - but it needs to happen more and this will have a positive impact on France's ability to maintain market share."

Bernard Magrez: "To survive you need to listen to the consumers and work very closely with the buyers."

Richard Hitchcock, Bottle Green: "There are many things that need to be put in place. However, I think the key is having stronger brands that can act as a confident signpost for consumers to follow to then discover all that is wonderful about the rest of France.

"PR and advertising will help to a degree, but only if they

are built on a base of retailer commitment to

focus on France, because in-store experience is the most powerful vote of confidence that a consumer can receive."

Anne Blois, Chamarré: "Stronger brands to drive sales and to be closer to the consumer. Advertising and PR campaigns which get behind France and not just the brand names. Improvements in levels of innovation - be it varietals, packaging, wine styles or food matching."

Bill Rolfe, 10 International: "Much stronger, more innovative brands such as Left Bank, better promotions and better designed , more modern packaging ."

Dominique Vrigneau, Thierry's Wine Services: "We need a commitment from retailers. Sometimes, when there is a shortage of volumes, it can be difficult to import it and [they] concentrate on easy pickings [instead]. Now that the exchange rate is difficult for New World countries as well, there could be a good revival there."

Stacking solutions

The Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB) has turned around sliding sales at home by revolutionising the way its wines are stocked on supermarket shelves. A study carried out in August found that 26% of Burgundian shoppers who looked at wine shelves left without buying, many of them because they did not understand enough about Burgundy wines to find

what they were looking for.

The BIVB reorganised shelves into price categories and occasions, with each price point linked to an occasion

- such as drinking at home, with friends or for celebrations. "Sommeliers' recommendations" on food and wine pairings were also made available

in aisles.

After dropping in 2007, sales in the first half of 2008 grew 2.4% to more than 34 million bottles in a declining market, and the BIVB hopes to win 13% more new customers thanks

to the move.




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