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Paul Henry defends Wine Australia's UK strategy

Published:  22 October, 2010

Paul Henry defends his position and strategy for the marketing and promotion of Australian wine following his resignation from the Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation.

Henry writing exclusively for Harpers Wine & Spirit this week said:

"The idea that a marketing investment should proportionately reflect your sales mix is a spurious one, as it would change nothing. The current UK trading profile of Australia is not something we want to preserve, rather it is something that we want to challenge and improve.

"The very fact that such a high proportion of Australia's sales lies in unsustainable and increasingly unprofitable price points should be an argument for a positioning strategy, not a counter to it.

"Heavy reliance on discounting to maintain sales depletions, and propping up pricing through access to opportunistic bulk and below-cost grape sourcing, are not sustainable responses to market challenges - as current share performance and recent musical chairs on the merger front, will attest.

"The market programs are about supporting and positioning the category for a sustainable and engaging future, not about providing a sales platform for any individual brand or company, however significant in terms of size and influence.

"The idea of A+ Australian Wine is a strategy that changes expectation around Australia. It is a simple consumer-facing strategy that seeks to change the current status quo and to improve the image, price and representation of our wines.

"It can accommodate all sizes of producers, ranges, and, to a certain extent, price points, but it steadfastly represents a best foot forward approach that seeks to champion something other than price, or price alone.

"If we were to be so market-driven as to only reflect the current commercial opportunity than our mantra would be, 'fast; good; cheap' - and Australia only wants to be one of those things: 'good'.

"Larger companies like Jacobs Creek, who understand and support the A+ approach with appropriate lines such as their new Barossa reserve range, see it as an important investment for the future of the whole category.

"Other companies that have shorter term commitments, or less reliance on Australian category health in their multi-national portfolios, are obviously free to choose whether they support us or not.

"The benefits for the smaller, regional producers are more obvious, but it is also important for a maturing brand in a maturing market to have an engaging new chapter, and to that extent it will benefit everybody.

"I acknowledge the importance of the larger brands and volume players to both our past and future, and they all have brands that can play in the A+ space. This not a division of a famously broad church, but it is a commitment to a long-term strategy that will position the category where it both deserves and needs to be - financially; environmentally; ethically.

"The real story of Australian wine is about people, places and endeavour, not about cases and price-points."