At this week’s Australian Grape and Wine Industry Briefing, a range of speakers discussed some of the opportunities for Australian winemakers.
One such speaker was Mary Hamilton, who represents the sixth generation of one of Australia’s oldest wine families and is currently CEO of Hugh Hamilton Wines. Hamilton’s topic was ‘marketing Australian wine in the new world’, and although it was directed at winemakers, she raised a number of great points that retailers can utilise in their pursuit to support the local wine industry.
As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the China tariffs continue to be felt throughout Australian wine, Hamilton said there needs to be a focus on a vision for the industry.
“Visions don’t need to change with challenging times. Our vision is that we need more people drinking our wine – that’s how we’re going to grow,” Hamilton said.
“It’s not just about increasing the frequency of existing drinkers, it’s actually more about getting those who never drink us or who occasionally drink us to make us their habit. That’s the growth recipe.”
The framework that Hamilton presented around this vision often touches on an important theme – to think outside the box.
One of the most important consumer groups that this approach will resonate with is younger adults from the Gen Z and Millennial generations. These generations are the future consumers of the wine market and will replace the existing older consumers, making their recruitment vital for both current and future successes of Australian wine.
“Wine as we know it will always have its place… But we are very substitutable, especially to younger consumers. They are not loyal to one drink, whether it’s spirits, beer, cider, it’s all up for grabs. They drink what they feel like and other alcohols have frankly done a much better job than us with consumers by making their products, formats, and communication much more engaging,” Hamilton said.
An approach towards solving this issue is one that the whole industry can work together on. It’s about thinking about new and exciting way to engage customers, not only with the products and the formats themselves, but also how these are conveyed to consumers.
And it’s vital to come up with things that we’ve never thought of before, as Hamilton said: “We cannot wait for the customer to tell us what they want. As Henry Ford said, ‘if I waited for my customers to tell me what they want, they would have said a faster horse.’ We are good at this stuff… What can we do next?”
Thinking outside the box is also important for not limiting the customers of Australian wine. Due to the wine industry’s love of tradition, Hamilton believes that sometimes there is too much focus on the technical components of the wine, which ends up creating jargon that only existing wine aficionados know. This creates a possible barrier to new consumers accessing Australian wine.
Another point that Hamilton raised to help improve access for new and existing customers, is to make it convenient to buy Australian wine. This means stocking enough local wine in a range of areas so there’s always an easy option for shoppers to choose it.
“It’s going to come down to two things – what’s in front of [shoppers] and what comes to their minds. Make it easy for people to buy us. We’ve got to increase our footprint, we’ve got to have more points of distribution, we need a range of products, everything from the commercial all the way through to the super premium, in all the different pack formats, and we have to have enough of it out there to make a splash,” Hamilton said.
The final point that retailers can utilise to support local winemakers revolves around helping build the Australian wine brand. This is an effort that will extend across the whole industry and even outside it, incorporating government and tourism initiatives like the New Zealand wine industry has done.
“We need an industry rousing campaign, something that will really fire up the world and us here at home,” Hamilton said.
The Australian lamb industry has done this already quite well, with an iconic campaign. This is a great ambition for Australian wine, and one that will need the support of the entire supply chain to emphasise.
The full Industry Briefing from Australian Grape and Wine is available on the organisation’s YouTube page. To find out more about supporting the organisation and the work it does for members, head https://www.agw.org.au/