Poor quality blights low-alc winesBy Alan Lodge
The poor quality of the majority of low-alcohol wines in the UK is preventing consumers from making repeat purchases or trying other brands, according to Banrock Station.
Neil Marolia, brand manager of Banrock Station, told the drinks business that while there is an ever-growing number of consumers who are looking for healthier products, the low-alcohol wine category was being damaged by a lack of investment in its image and quality.
Pointing to recent research which showed there had been a 12.2% growth in the number of health-conscious consumers since 2007, Marolia said: “These people are actively seeking more healthy alternatives with brand names they are familiar with.
“The problem with the low-alcohol market is people are trying it once and then not coming back for repeat purchase due to the poor quality of the liquid and the lack of clarity of the packaging. People are simply not aware of what they are buying.”
Marolia admitted that sometimes people end up buying low-alcohol wines by accident and don’t do so again after realising their mistake.
However, he added that should a consumer see a product with a brand name they are familiar with and trust, they would be more inclined to try the wine.
While he admitted that “taste is absolutely key” in convincing people to return to the light wine category, Marolia also insisted that a change in approach is needed in communicating information on labels.
Speaking of the target market of mid-thirties and above females, he said: “Say 5.5% abv to a consumer and most of them will not really understand. Say ’10 calories’ to them and all of a sudden you are talking their language. They are far more aware of calories than they are of abv.”
Marolia was also critical of some of the light wine producers for the way they make their wines, some of which admit on the label that the product inside the bottle is a blend of wine and fruit juice.
Accolade Wines is investing £1 million in a Banrock Station Light range marketing drive which the company hopes will do as much to promote the light wine category as it will the brand itself.
“As well as the campaign, we are trying to bring a new philosophy on labelling to the category,” he added.
“We have the names of grape varieties on the label, unlike many other brands. We also have the country of origin.
“We make the Banrock Station logo especially clear, too. People want the same taste experience they get from the mother brand and that really helps perception. A new low alcohol wine brand would struggle without a well-recognised parent brand.”
Speaking of the production of Banrock Station Light, he explained: “We will create full strength wines at first and then blend them to ensure the wine has all the correct flavour characteristics.
“We will then take a portion of it and slowly evaporate the alcohol out. This is done very gently to ensure there is no impact on flavour.
“We then blend this back in with the full-strength wine to create the lower alcohol product.”
Concluding, Marolia says the industry as a whole has a responsibility to expand its lower-alcohol offering.
“We are simply giving some people what they want, and that’s lower-calories and lower-alcohol wines. We have thought very carefully about who we are targeting.
“There will come a point in the future when retailers have separate areas for low-alcohol wines as the category will continue to grow.
“Also, the government’s Responsibility Deal is challenging us all to bring out lower alcohol products and we have responded to that.”
First Cape, which itself produces its own range of low-alcohol wines under the Café Collection umbrella, last night vowed to lower the alcohol content of its full-strength wines by 0.8% – totalling the removal of 50m units of alcohol per year for the next three years.
The move, according to brand owner Brand Phoenix, is a direct response to the Responsibility Deal.