Black Tower is tapping into a trend for Scandinavian knitwear for the next installment of its bottle sleeve design series.
Due to appear on 75cl bottles of Black Tower Fruity White, the design will appear on UK shelves from September in time for the Christmas season.
While Danish TV series The Killing has helped spark enthusiasm for the knitted sweaters worn by its heroine, Black Tower has taken its main inspiration from Norwegian knitwear duo Arne & Carlos, whose book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit has become a best-seller in the US and Europe.
“It’s about saying this is fun; drinking wine is fun,” explained Alison Fleming MW, export sales director for parent company Reh Kendermann.
Bag-in-box versions of the design will also be available, although Fleming noted the resistance to this format in the UK compared to its widespread acceptance in Scandinavian markets.
“It’s a big purchase for people,” she acknowledged, arguing that it was price rather than any negative image that puts UK consumers off buying more bag-in-box wine. “Usually it’s a brand they’re already familiar with,” noted Fleming, who praised the format as “convenient, creates less waste and is more carbon friendly.”
This sleeve initiative forms part of the German brand’s six-month cycle of limited edition series, which it first introduced 18 months ago. The current design of piano keys is the result of a consumer competition on the theme of “Easy Ends The Day”, which has been replicated on half a million bottles.
While emphasising the success of these bottle sleeves, Fleming highlighted a number of recent range extensions that are expected to support the brand’s further growth in the UK market.
“At the moment the key one is B by Black Tower,” she said, referring to the low alcohol, 5.5% abv series of red, white and rosé wines, which was launched in October 2011.
Made from a blend of grapes sourced from all over Europe, the alcohol is extracted at 28°C using vacuum distillation, before the juice is blended with standard Black Tower to bring the end product back up to 5.5% abv.
Thanks to the UK tax break on wines at 5.5% abv and below, Fleming highlighted the ability to offer the low alcohol range at a sub-£5 pricepoint – £4.50 compared to £5.99 for the standard collection – as particularly key to its success. “Wine is a very expensive commodity for a lot of people,” she noted.
Another factor is that the off-dry style of B by Black Tower is only slightly sweeter in taste profile than Black Tower’s standard collection, whose 8.5%-10% abv also means there is a relatively small difference in alcohol levels compared to other brands’ low-alcohol ranges.
“People don’t notice the flavour difference for the lower price,” summed up Fleming. “It’s very much in the same mould as the standard Black Tower.”
In addition to the boost from B by Black Tower, the brand’s “Pink Bubbly” which was launched 18 months ago, has helped it to achieve 35% volume growth in UK rosé sales (Nielsen MAT to Feb 13).
With just 2.5 bar pressure compared to around 6 bar for Champagne, the wine is bottled under screwcap and falls under the still wine lower duty tariff.
From annual UK shipments of just over 100,000 nine-litre cases in 1994 when the Black Tower brand came under its current ownership, this figure has increased steadily to reach just under 700,000 nine-litre cases in 2012.
According to Nielsen, last year saw Black Tower increase volume UK sales by 13%, making it the 15th best-selling off-trade white wine brand.