|Consumer engagement is key to French success|
|Written by Laura Heywood|
|Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:41|
French wine brands should take a leaf out of the soft drinks or confectionery categories' books by thinking about what the consumer wants.
In the major grocers, FMCG products fly off the shelves because brand owners "think about the consumer first," Smith said at Thierry's Big Debate at France Under One Roof this morning. If you don't know who you're selling to, you will struggle to sell it, she warned wine brand owners.
The brands versus appellations debate saw the panel agree that France's future lies in promoting both. Brands and appellations can co-exist and aren't mutually exclusive, asserted Thierry's Matthew Dickinson. "Both have their place in French wine sales for the consumer and long may that last," he said.
Brands and appellations "can and should be complementary," agreed Anne Burchett from Sopexa, who said both "strengthen each other's propositions". French producers "need to have an array of offers that will meet the needs of the consumer at every level," Burchett added, and this is why "France needs both brands and appellations".
Branded wines and those from a particular appelation can cover entry-level and niche positions in a retailers' offering, agreed Smith, and there's therefore a place in the market for both. Smith also called on smaller appellations to come under an umbrella group in order to make themselves "more marketable" and recognisable to consumers.
Thierry's buyer Dominique Vrigneau spoke out in favour of the appellation system, which he said shows "a whole history of what growers [have done] in the best area". He recognised that while appellation laws "can be restricting", recent developments and a relaxing of laws means appellations have a vital role to play in France's future success.
“Appellations also give consumers reasons to spend more money and trade-up," said Burchett. However, for wines that fetch higher price points, the varietal doesn't need to be stated on the label, according to Burchett, because it builds up a sense of what she termed "mystique".
Thierry's buyer Lindsay Talas agreed that sometimes putting information on the label, such as grape variety, can be damaging for sales. In consumer tests, the perception is that "Chardonnay is a bit of a dirty word", she said, although the same consumers admit to liking Chablis.