Distell ramps up premium activity in UK

South Africa’s largest wine producer, Distell, is ramping up its activity in the UK in a bid to triple its share of the South African premium wine market in Britain.

The UK has been made a top priority for Distell Vineyards & Estates, a new business unit of Distell, in addition to Germany, Holland, and Finland.

Distell is South Africa’s largest wine business with its Cape Legends arm achieving annual sales of £32 million and over one million 9-litre cases.

Carina Gous

Carina Gous

Carina Gous, DVE’s newly appointed CEO, believes a strong presence in the UK is crucial in order to be viewed as a serious player in the global wine market.

“The UK remains the most important market globally in terms of positioning premium brands. Wines that perform well in there are noticed by the rest of the world.

“The UK is a tough market and we aren’t chasing short term gains, it’s about a consistent growth strategy,” she said.

The company is aiming to grow its 4.5% value share of the South African off-trade premium wine sector to 18% via new retail listings for select brands.

“Our growth target is ambitious but I believe that we can achieve it by continuing to invest in on-trade and independent merchants,” Gous said.

“We realised that in order to get where we want to in the UK, we had to switch our focus from supermarkets to independent merchants and the on-trade,” she added. Gous believes £8.99 is the “sweet spot” for South African wine in the off-trade.

Speaking of South African wine in general, Gous believes the whites are “world class” while the reds still “have a way to go”.

“The reds are gradually getting softer, fruiter and more accessible. Producers are getting better at oak management, which is making a real difference,” she said. Investment in wine tourism is another key focus for the company.

Wines from the Cape Legends portfolio are sold in 65 countries with the company enjoying significant market share in Sweden and Norway. Distell owns 4,500 hectares of vineyards across South Africa and works with contact growers.

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