Portugal uncovers ‘hidden sales channels’

5th March, 2014 by Gabriel Stone

Wines of Portugal has highlighted a discrepancy between its export statistics and sales figures from FMCG data agencies, claiming that the country’s UK sales are “misrepresented”.

Douro-640x426The generic body argues that, while much of Portuguese wine’s UK off-trade presence lies in the independent sector, companies such as Nielsen only take into account scanner-based sales from major retailers.

In order to create what it maintains is a fairer picture of Portugal’s performance in the UK, Wines of Portugal has obtained data [see chart below] from Comext, part of statistical office Eurostat, which tracks the movement of goods within the European Union.

The reality, it claims, is that Portugal should leapfrog Argentina to be ranked among the top 10 countries for UK wine sales, with a 1.9% volume market share. At €4.35 per litre, Portugal also claims the second highest average price for bottled wine exports after France (€7.58) and ahead of New Zealand (€4.10).

Portugal stats

“The research is welcome news to supporters of Portugal who recognise that our growth is coming from outside the parameters set by the large data agencies,” commented Jorge Monteiro, President of ViniPortugal.

Offering “detailed copies” of the research for independent scrutiny, he insisted: “Portugal is being misrepresented in the UK and we want to set the record straight.”

While the data, in common with Nielsen, includes fortified wine, Monteiro highlighted the country’s unfortified category as “very important” for future growth.

“For the last three years we have exported more still bottled wine than fortified,” he the drinks business, arguing: “Fortified is a well-matured market that doesn’t increase on a global scale.”

In addition to his suggestion that “we don’t believe it’s possible to increase exports of fortified,” Monteiro noted: “Fortified is just one region and still wine covers all the country. If you’re looking for well balanced exports then still wine is the solution.”

In line with the strong independent retailer presence that lies behind the new figures from ViniPortugal, Monteiro confirmed that this sector would form an important focus for the country’s activities in the year ahead. “Our target is the independent sector, not the big chains and never discounters,” he outlined.

Adding that “restaurants are also very important to us,” Monteiro acknowledged one “small problem with no solution” hindering further growth in this market: “We need more Portuguese cuisine in the UK.”

Tania Oliveira, UK brand and communications manager for Viniportugal, echoed this strategic outline, admitting: “We do have a problem with the rotation of product so we really need to push it a little bit more.” Above all, she maintained: “We don’t care about volume, we care about value.”

In line with its core focus, Wines of Portugal has confirmed a number of UK marketing initiatives for 2014, each designed to cater specifically for the on-trade and independent sectors.

These include the return of last year’s Wines of Portugal Wine Academy, an in-depth course for the trade, which offers “advanced learning about Portuguese wines” in an effort to help drive sales.

A new scheme being launched for the on-trade is the Wines of Portugal Wine Quest, which requires sommeliers to complete the Wine Academy before participating in a trip to Portugal where they will select a wine to champion at an event in London. The winner will receive a £3,000 prize, with two runners up prizes of £1,000 each.

2014 also sees the return of Discover a World of Difference, using ambassadors in the form of wine writers Charles Metcalfe and Sarah Ahmed, as well as Master Sommelier João Pires to host consumer-focused Portuguese wine tastings in restaurants and independent merchants.

In a further effort to spread its message to consumers, Wines of Portugal added an evening session for the public following its annual trade tasting in London this week, reporting advance registrations from 450 people. “The key is to target a consumer who has a higher involvement with wine,” remarked Oliveira.

After a 10 year run, the generic body chose to drop its UK wine writer selection of 50 Great Portuguese Wines for 2014, although Monteiro confirmed that the initiative would return in 2015, explaining: “We need more time to consolidate the results.”

However, he noted that the scheme would instead take place this year in both Brazil and the US, although, added Monteiro, “honestly, the best results are in the UK because of the knowledge of consumers, press and trade – you need a good base of journalists and wine writers to use every year.”

Above all, Monteiro confirmed that ViniPortugal accepted the long-term nature of its goal to increase sales further, especially at higher price points. “We are selling a mosaic where every tile is different to the others. We need more time and more investment.”

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