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Tag Archives: wine business

Why wineries change their label design

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wine label designMostly, because they can. That’s one of the conclusions of an article I wrote for the Beverage Media trade magazine, trying to figure out why so many producers seem to be changing the look and design of their labels. Because, given the changes in the wine business, with more and bigger companies controlling more brands, it’s going to happen more often.

Or, as one retailer told me: “Sometimes I wonder why they need to fix something that isn’t broken.”

And, though the article was written for retailers, it has lessons for consumers as well. Ever go into a store, look for your favorite wine in its regular place with its regular label, and not see it? Chances are it’s still there; it just has a different label. Don’t laugh. Retailers told me this happens all the time.

So what’s going on with all the re-labeling?

• It’s difficult to get a firm grasp on how often this happens. Brands that have changed labels over the past several years include Blackstone, Columbia Crest, La Vieille Ferme, Jacobs Creek, Columbia Winery, Cuvaison, Hahn, Parducci, and Langhe Twins.

• Producers, facing a need to make their product stand out among what may be 15,000 different wines in the U.S., are more willing to change the label than ever before. In addition, they know more about this kind of marketing, and will spend the money to do it where they may have been reluctant before.

• Consumers aren’t always the primary target for label changes. Producers sometimes do it to impress distributors and retailers, to reassure them that they care about the brand and will put marketing dollars behind it. This is completely different from every other consumer packaged good, and we have the three-tier system to thank for it.

• Most label changes aren’t complete makeovers, although that seems to be happening more often. Usually, the changes are tweaks to reinforce the brand’s image, and are only noticeable over time.

• Once-popular wines that aren’t anymore are the most likely to get a new label. Also, producers aren’t shy about changing labels on popular brands, if they see a chance to keep the current audience, which may be older, and attract a new, younger one.

Winebits 333: Prosecco and cava, buying a winery, and family wineries

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Winebits 333: Prosecco and cava, buying a winery, and family wineriesThe Spanish understand these things: Imagine a California wine producer, facing intense competition for a foreign rival, and their reaction: “We must crush them!” But the Spanish, faced with the phenomenal growth of Prosecco over the past several years, have figured out that’s a good thing. “The Prosecco boom is helping to open minds and show that you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to open a bottle of sparkling wine – Prosecco and cava can be Monday night wines,” says Gloria Collell, the winemaker at Spanish cava giants Freixenet and Segura Viudas (and, in the interest of full disclosure, someone I know a little and like). Which, of course, is the Wine Curmudgeon’s approach to wine — drink it on Monday night (as well as Tuesday night, and so on and so forth). The interview, in the drinks business trade magazine, is worth reading for its sensible look at the sparkling business.

The best due diligence: I’ve met a lot of new winery owners over the years, and too many of them admit they really didn’t understand what they were getting into. Now they have this to read, from Jonathan Yates at The Street: “There are always good buys in established wineries on the market as many of the sellers purchased without focusing on how the business model operates.” His three points — understand wine is made everywhere, understand the importance of the tasting room, and understand wineries as destinations — are as good as anything I have seen.

Everyone owns a family business: The idea of local and the backlash against big and multi-national that started during the recession has even moved into wine. Casella Wines, the Australian producer that makes YellowTail, and has always been owned by the Casella family, has a new name — Casella Family Brands. Because, of course, nothing will better burnish the image of a brand that makes tens of millions of cases than the idea of family. It’s something E&J Gallo, still owned by the Gallo family, has always played up, and it’s even something that publicly-owned behemoth Constellation Brands, started by the Sands family and still run by it, tries to take advantage of. In wine, family and big are not mutually exclusive the way they are in so many other businesses.

Big Wine tightened its grip on the U.S. market in 2013

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Big Wine tightened its grip on the U.S. market

So how many smaller wine companies should we buy this year?

Big Wine tightened its grip on the U.S market in 2013, with new figures showing that three companies accounted for more than half of all the wine produced during those 12 months. E&J Gallo, The Wine Group, and Constellation Wines totalled some 187.5 million cases of the 370 million produced.

Throw in the next three biggest companies — Bronco, home of Two-buck Chuck; Trinchero Family Estates; and Treasury — and that total rises to 241.4 million cases — about two-thirds of the wine made in the U.S. The top 30 by themselves account for some 90 percent; in other words, all the wine that those of us who write about wine love to write about? Hardly anyone drinks it. No wonder availability is such an issue.

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