By James Atkinson
Australian wine brands have been so inwardly focused on the many challenges facing the wine industry that they have failed to recognise the positives, says Nielsen executive director Michael Walton.
Walton told TheShout the wine industry has understandably been preoccupied with tackling a difficult export market, as well as trying to open up new channels of retail sales in a domestic retail environment increasingly controlled by two national chains.
"While we've been looking inward, consumers have been buying wine, they've been trading up, they've been moving away from soft pack (cask) into higher quality wines," he said.
He said that while the bulk of wine sales growth in Australia in the last five years has been in imported wines, particularly those from New Zealand, as well as private label brands – growth in both these categories is now clearly showing a decline.
"New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc hasn't stopped, but it's not growing as fast," Walton said.
"We're also seeing a decline in the growth in retailer-controlled brands – in the last 12 months, wine brands controlled by family companies in Australia actually grew faster than private label."
Walton said extensive research by Nielsen on growth rates at every level in the wine category – conducted specifically for the recent Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) conference – revealed there is a $300 million opportunity for Australian brands to grow over the next three years.
"I think that's the first bit of really positive news for the local market and domestic sales for probably the last five to six years," he told TheShout.
"There is a clear and ongoing opportunity to provide Australian wine consumers with new and fresh stories about our wine brands, our regional stories and indeed our characters that make our wines," he said.
"These stories drive added value to wine brands and generate ongoing interest in high traffic social media sites."