Andy Phelps, who started the job in August, has been with the supermarket since 2003. After spending his first three years in-store he held various buying roles – the most recent as category manager for frozen foods.
In his first interview since taking on BWS, he told OLN: “I want to focus on consistency for shoppers, whether that is in-store or online. We need to make sure we understand what they want and the different shopping missions.”
A key focus will be on introducing more lower-alcohol wines, which the retailer classifies as being 10.5% abv and below.
Phelps said: “We want to double sales of these wines and give consumers more information and better labelling so they have greater choice.”
Senior wine buyer Julian Dyer said: “We consider lighter to be 10.5% abv or less, because at 8%, 9% and 10% you can still have a quality product. We don’t want to flood the market with de-alcoholised wines which don’t taste very good.
“Technically wine below 5.5% abv isn’t wine – it’s a wine drink. We will develop a range which delivers what people expect from a Pinot Grigio, for example, and has the complexity. Some customers want wines as light as 5.5% abv, but it’s not all about tax breaks – it’s about what customers want.”
Phelps added that own-label would also be increased, especially the premium Taste the Difference tier, which grew 23% in the past year. But he ruled out expanding the House range, which Sainsbury’s said would be a £75 million brand by the end of the year.
He said: “Own-label is really important to us and we’ll be spending the next few months checking we have got it right.”
Dyer added: “The team is chock-a-block with experience and the focus on Taste the Difference has been relentless. We want to be seen as the pioneers of innovation and delivering consistent quality. It is growing at 23%, which suggests people want to trade up if the products are good.”