|Analysis: stand up for responsibility|
|Thursday, 11 August 2011 10:40|
Let’s take a look at how far the trade has come to date. Since the Responsibility Deal was published in March, 110 drinks companies have signed up – a pretty strong opening. Harpers examines who's feeling the benefits and what else needs to happen.
Drinkaware now has close to 60 supporting companies and Paul Hegarty, its industry stakeholder relationship manager, says that since the deal, “a lot of smaller companies, and a lot more wine companies, have signed up”. Recent wine additions include CyT UK, Cellar Trends and Hatch Mansfield.
Hegarty says the broad spectrum of alcohol businesses are uniting behind Drinkaware, but that each has particular issues it wants to focus on. Some are more interested in pushing the Why Let Good Times Go Bad? campaign, which, Hegarty says, “is probably more relevant to lager or RTDs, than malt whisky drinkers”.
Hegarty says the drinks industry’s own solution to the problem of irresponsible selling and marketing of alcohol will “be much more effective than a draconian approach” from government. “We need to change how people drink and the drink culture,” Hegarty adds.
How low can you go?
Australian Vintage recently launched a campaign called What’s Your Style?, which, while “not overtly about lower alcohol”, covers lighter, fresher styles, according to Paul Schaafsma, the firm’s general manager for the UK and Europe.
Australian Vintage “wholeheartedly supports the Responsibility Deal initiative”, says Schaafsma, and part of its approach is focused on “reducing our alcohol levels”.
“The UK consumer is demanding a new style of Australian wine, moving away from overuse of oak, high alcohol and blockbuster reds, to more elegant, refined and sophisticated styles. As a result, we are seeing a stylistic change toward lower-alcohol wines that are fresh and light with texture, flavour and aromatics,” says Schaafsma.
“We are not talking low alcohol in terms of 5% or so, but around 11% to 12.5% – far removed from the 15% wines of the past.
“Over the past few years our winemaking team has worked to bring down alcohol levels, recognising the need for a stylistic shift within the Australian wine industry and growing consumer demand for more appropriate alcohol levels.
“The challenge we have is how to communicate this change, and how to let the UK consumer know that the style of Australian wine has evolved and the days of ‘big hefty high-alcohol wines’ are a thing of the past,” he adds.
With this in mind its What’s Your Style? campaign aims to engage with UK wine drinkers by “talking their language”. Each wine style is described on the label in simple terms, using words such as “light”, “fresh”, “crisp” and “zesty”.
Adam Wyartt, head of New World brands at supplier PLB, says the “growing interest from both retailer and consumer” in low alcohol represents a “clear opportunity” to grow the sector. While he says the tax break is attractive (wines under 5.5% abv pay less duty) the main driver is the need to focus on responsible drinks retailing.
“Historically consumer reluctance to engage with lower-alcohol wines has been based on poor previous experiences – the long-term category development must be quality driven and not price driven.
“PLB’s aim in this category is that the wines must meet PLB’s strict taste criteria and stand up comparatively when benchmarked against standard abv products. It’s also important to get the price positioning right and ensure it is not only viewed as a cheap, entry-level solution.”
Wyartt adds that the firm’s “lighter drinking” portfolio offers both natural and reduced-alcohol wines at both low (under 5.5% abv) and lower alcohol (around 9% abv) levels.
He adds that Bottle Green’s efforts are “clear and simple”. They include being early signatories to the deal and making a number of commitments around marketing and the wellbeing of its staff. It put a “clear programme” in place two years ago to ensure unit labelling on its products will be completed before the December 2013 deadline. It also has an internal responsible drinking policy and, Hitchcock says: “We ensure that we keep staff up to date with all relevant developments — not least so that staff can appropriately and confidently verbalise industry issues when outside the business.” In addition, a “significant part” of its work is focused on lower alcohol.