Harpers consumer wine forum

Why the wine trade must engage consumers

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The wine trade faced up to some tough accusations last week – wine aisles are “boring”, in-store signs are a “nightmare” and “wine speak” alienates consumers.

That was according to a line-up of marketing and FMCG experts from outside the industry who spoke at the first consumer forum, jointly hosted by Harpers and consumer website WineOption in London.

The forum kicks off Harpers’ Get Engaged campaign, which will focus on helping the trade talk to consumers in a better way.

Andrew Marsden, grocery marketing consultant, said wine aisles in supermarkets were “boring” with “little theatre” and “look like you’re shopping for detergent, only it’s intimidating – we’ve done exams and talk in a language consumers don’t understand”.
“It’s unbelievably difficult to shop,” he said, adding that the trade forgets about basic selling principles, to sell the benefits, rather than features. “We sell wine by colour, country of origin and whether it has bubbles, but it causes confusion over the sheer number of products.”

Olivia Ocaña, chairman of the Big Wine Festival which hopes to attract 120,000 consumers to its June event, said it would “offer something for every consumer”, including families and children, as well as selling wine and collecting data on customer preferences and purchases.

Tony Dann, president of ConeTech, which uses spinning-cone technology to produce lighter-style wines, accused the trade of “shortsightedness” – instead of thinking of the future it was “cynically” focused on cheap deals, and was “ignoring the billion-pound” lighter-drinking category.

Helen McGinn, who blogs at Knackered Mothers Wine Club, asked her readers for their top complaints about the wine trade – they responded by saying they felt alienated by “wine speak” and thought in-store signage was a “nightmare”.

Responding to criticisms of supermarkets, Waitrose buyer Andrew Shaw said grocers need “a groundswell of support from the supply base” to help them better engage with consumers. “It’s easy to buy wine and make wine, but selling it is the biggest challenge,” he added.

See Harpers’ December 16 issue for full coverage of the event

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