Don’t ‘dumb down’ wine offer, on-trade warned

The UK on-trade shouldn’t dumb down its wine offer in response to the challenging exchange rate, Conviviality’s Simon Jerrome has warned.

Matthew Clark’s ‘Drinks Emporium’ portfolio tasting this week took a circus theme to add a sense of theatre and drama to the on-trade offering

Speaking to db at Matthew Clark’s portfolio tasting ‘Drinks Emporium’ on Tuesday, Jerrome, who heads up wine buying at Conviviality Trading & Conviviality Direct, which includes Matthew Clark, argued that while the current exchange rate problems in the wake of Brexit was something that had not been seen by the on-trade before, and could be compounded by the impact of rate rises this spring, there was, in fact, a huge opportunity for the on-trade to use it to add value for its consumers.

“The on-trade has never seen increases like this – this is brand new, so they aren’t sure how to approach it. Food is going up, wine is going up and there’s not a lot we can do about it – we’re stuck in this Brexit issue around currency and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of it,” he said.

“What I hope is that the trade doesn’t dumb down the wine offering to bring down that cost – we need to continue to give the drinker the opportunity and give them a reason to go out into the on-trade, and that is key,” he argued.

He noted that the independent on-trade and smaller chains were operating very strongly, and this in part was due to adding value to the customers’ experience. “They are doing exactly what we need them to do – giving great services, so that people are going out into the on-trade, saying ‘that was a great evening with great service’ as people will go back again.

Conviviality’s group wine buyer Andrew Shaw agreed that while the market was likely to become tougher at the entry level, it was even more important than ever to maintain diversity in terms of unusual regions, and npd including different formats, and styles. Theatre – as exemplified by the Drinks Emporium portfolio tasting’s “crazy and engaging” circus theme – was another important factor.

“We are treading into the unknown as no-one knows the impact for wine,” he said. “We have to remain flexible to meet what the consumers demands.”

“The present concern is that consumers are moving away from wine and the Brexit price inflation. There are two dynamics – one [effect] is that the price might encourage people to trade down, but the real opportunity lies in adding value to the customer base, which means more theatre, and more transparent conversations about the pressures of trading,” he said.

“We are in a unique position to offer customers that. This tasting, which is a value add, crazy and engaging, works in different ways – it is an opportunity to taste a massive range of products but I hope it also helps the customer articulate the strengths that they and Conviviality can bring to consumers.”

“Our challenge is to bring the UK consumer back to wine by ensuring we can engage the end consumer and not lose them. We need to supply our suppliers [with products that will tempt them], we can’t rest on our laurels, which the wine trade has been guilty of doing before.”

Shaw said the team had spent the last six months building up greater trust with its suppliers. “And we’ve got to a certain scale and can offer our supplier base a far broader breadth of choice,” he said.

The buying team has also worked to broaden its portfolio to add more interest and diversity, he said.

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