White Port ‘gains traction’ at Waitrose

White Port has gained “real traction” with consumers, Port producers have claimed, after Waitrose reported sales up 25% year-on-year.

Port producers are reporting strong sales of white port across the on- and off-trade

Port producers are reporting strong sales of white port across the on- and off-trade

The retailer is now tipping white port as a hit aperitif for the summer, after seeing sales of its Taylor’s Chip Dry rise 25% year-on-year, which it says comes on the back of growth of the cocktail trend. Buyer Nick Room called the drink a “wonderful alternative aperitif” to Pimms or a gin and tonic.

Andrew Hawes, md at Mentzendorff, which represents Taylor’s in the UK, said sales of white port had been growing steadily and were also up 25% year-on-year across the on-trade. He added this was not “an overnight phenomena” or the result of promotional activity – port, including white port is regularly promoted in the off-trade – but proof the drink had gained “real traction” with consumers.

“We are seeing White Port becoming part of ever expanding cocktail scene in London and also around the rest of the UK,” he told db. “It is not clear that this is one trade sector creating demand in another, what we are seeing is happening in all trade sectors across a large number of customers, so it appears to be a genuine consumer driven trend.”

There has always been a high awareness of White Port, he noted, but producers’ efforts educating both the trade and consumer was beginning to bear fruit, combining with a wider desire among consumers to try new things and travel. He noted for example an increase in visitors to Porto, where many will have been served White Port & Tonic.”

“What is happening now is that this activity is having real traction with consumers,” he said.

Charlotte Symington of Symington Family Estate, whose brands includes Graham’s Port, Cockburn’s and Dow’s, added that it was good to see White Port being enjoyed by younger consumer (25-40 year olds) and more women.

“Port is so often thought of as a drink at Christmas so it is great to see people considering Port outside of this season,” she told db.

One advantage that was helping boost its popularity was that white port doesn’t need to be decanted, will stay fresh for a few weeks after opening and can be served straight from the fridge.

“These are all the factors which make these ports more attractive to a younger consumer and to be enjoyed throughout the year.” she added.

However, she added that the real growth opportunity for port lay in the premium sector, and the company was increasingly looking at different formats to make this more accessible (either larger 4.5L formats in the on-trade or at weddings, or 20l formats to allow more consumers to try Aged tawny ports at a more affordable price point.

Rupert Lovie, marketing manager at Sogrape UK, which includes Sandeman in its portfolio said that while a lot of work has centred around cocktails and alternative serves such as reserve port over ice, the drink had also benefitted from gaining recognition through trophies and gold medals.

Meanwhile, sales of premium ports had improved in the last three years, he noted particularly aged Tawnies.

Hawes agreed, saying that port fitted into the wider trend of people drinking less but better alcohol. The strongest trend in recent years and best example of this is the growth in Aged Tawny Port sales, with Taylor’s 10yo & 20yo sales growing across both the Off & On-Trade,” he said.

But he added that the ‘bringing women into Port’ issue was a red herring. “Women have long been the largest purchasers of Port and all the above trends strongly indicate that, when it comes to Port, women have already arrived!”

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