Cotes du Rhone aims to go premium

Inter Rhone is keen to reinvent Cotes du Rhone wine as a premium category after volume sales dropped 3% in the UK in 2013 (IRI).

Two short harvests and grubbing up of vineyards led to a 20% decrease in production and the generic body admits it cannot hold volume but must instead convince UK shoppers to trade up to maintain value. But it will have to communicate the message on a reduced budget.

UK export marketing manager Louise Rasse said: “Because we have less volume we have less [marketing] budget as well, so we’ve decided to change the strategy in off-trade support.

“We don’t want to push volumes as we used to but we want to work on brand content, awareness and visibility. We are stopping individual support to suppliers and going for more collective promotions encouraging trading up.”

Sponsorship of the Meltdown music festival, annual quiz night, web videos designed to go viral, social media and food matchings will form the basis of Inter Rhône’s 2014 marketing as it seeks to “create entertaining content and bring it to consumers”.

Inter Rhône said consumers have already shown they are prepared to start trading up on Rhône. It used IRI figures to show that UK consumers bought 1.9 million fewer bottles of sub-£5 Côtes du Rhône in 2013 and 1.3 million more bottles above £5.

This means the proportion of Rhône wine sold above £5 has more than doubled in the past year to 68%.

Rasse said: “It’s healthy to have more than half our volume sold at the price range that’s in growth.

“We feared consumers could go to a region with lower prices, but they have stayed loyal.”

But one supplier refuted the figures. Richard Evans, director at Celliers des Dauphins and own-label supplier Dedicated Wines, said: “If you look at own- label Côtes du Rhône they are all under £5 at the multiples, except Waitrose. I know those figures are wrong. We sell 6 million bottles a year to the off-trade and that jump is too quick.”

But he added: “Rhône needs to be repositioned. We accept we will lose volume but hopefully not value. Côtes du Rhône wines are probably reaching their right level. They should be in the same price category as Bordeaux.

“You have to give consumers a reason to trade up. If you are buying a product for under £5 and it suddenly goes above £5 are you going to continue to buy it or will you look at what else is under £5? You have to increase the marketing and invest in it and change the packaging.”

Inter Rhône marketing manager Olivier Legrand said giving consumers confidence to buy more expensive Rhône wine is now the “main part of our communication strategy”.

Evans said: “I don’t understand that the marketing budget has gone down as volume has gone down. The budget should be based on turnover, not volume.”

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