It has axed a wide range of SKUs and now has just six lower- alcohol wines – four still and two sparkling – all under the First Cape brand at 5.5% abv, rrp £3.99 for 75cl.
Managing director Greg Wilkins told OLN: “We built our business on good value- for-money, full-strength South African wines and recently we have focused too heavily on light wines.
“That category works but it’s only to a finite size. It’s found its natural level and it’s a sustainable category, but it’s not a massive category and I don’t think it will ever be.
“People buying it are repeat purchasers and they are happy with what they have, but it’s not the main business – it’s an add-on.”
Andrew Turner, the former wine category manager at Morrisons, and brought in as sales director at Brand Phoenix, added: “On the buying side
a lot of the light wine buying responsibility goes to the juniors. Buyers need to help them and develop the category.
“Light wine was only ever going to get so much space and so many sales. So we honed it back to being realistic and it might organically grow slowly rather than trying to force the market.”
Brand Phoenix now aims to “do a few things well but not proliferate everywhere and try to be everything to everybody”.
First Cape is still “the jewel in the crown”, but Brand Phoenix has worked with Distel on repackaging a range of brands that will start appearing on the UK market over the summer.
Danger Point is £4.49, Cape Peak is £4.79, 56 Hundred is £7.99 and Inception is £9.99, to be promoted down to £7.99. It also has Mangrove Jack from Australia and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
“A lot of work has gone into a short range,” said Wilkins. “A lot of time has been spent at the wineries. Retailers are reacting well to changes we are making.”
Brand Phoenix will continue to work with retailers on half- price wines because it believes consumers still like the mechanic, despite negative press.
“The pressure, quite rightly, is back on suppliers,” said Wilkins. “If you’re going to do half-price you have to make sure the value is there for the consumer.”
Joint UK director Steve Rosser added: “A £10 bottle reduced to £5 has to look and taste like a £10 bottle.
“You have to make sure the quality and packaging is right and we feel we have.”
Brand Phoenix has also teamed up with former Oddbins and Nicolas owner Castel to bring its French wines back to the UK market.
Castel has the Héritier range comprising a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Chablis, both at £10.99.
It was trialled with one retailer over Christmas and will be in a number of stores in June or July.
It also has a Castel Grande Reserve from the Languedoc which retails at £8.99, down to £5.99, and was a Chardonnay du Monde gold medal winner.
Managing director Greg Wilkins said: “Castel has a brilliant chateau proposal. We have gone through the range and found the gems and picked out the best ones for the UK consumer – fruit-driven, modern wines.”