It was a year of transition for the Brown Family Wine Group (BFWG) in 2018, with the business changing its name and repositioning as a “multi-branded family wine business”.

Over the past 12 months, the company’s domestic performance has been strong across Brown Brothers, Innocent Bystander and its Tasmanian brands, with Devil’s Corner becoming Tasmania’s leading brand. In addition, BFWG continued to be the market leader in Prosecco.

“A contributor to this result is our ability to connect with consumers through our sites,” says Dean Carroll, CEO of BFWG. “The other major contributor is the commitment and ability of our people whose willingness to work together for the greater good of the company continues to overwhelm us.”

BFWG entered the canned wine category last year with Prosecco Spritz and Innocent Bystander Moscato and Carroll has been excited to see the customer response.

“There is still more knowledge to be gained on the best way to merchandise alternate packs such as cans and we work closely with our customer partners to gain insights in this space and help shoppers navigate the opportunity. Being recognised as an innovative wine company is important to us, so it’s fair to say all aspects of NPD including pack formats are on the table at BFWG.”

Other opportunities and challenges await in 2019, not least the growing export market in Asia, which Carroll believes “has helped to bring the demand and supply back into equilibrium”. BFWG will continue to overinvest here to develop things further. Carroll is positive about the prospects for Innocent Bystander, has seen demand exceed supply in Tasmanian wine products, and highlights Prosecco as a burgeoning category with still more potential for growth.

“While the Prosecco juggernaut is recognised, we still feel it is underdone in terms of actual share of wine in comparison to overseas markets. The key is not to diminish the growth by confusing the shopper and we are working with our colleagues in the King Valley to ensure the home of premium Prosecco in Australia is in the North East of Victoria where the variety was first planted decades ago and where the expertise with the wine is most extensive.

“In terms of challenges, the biggest hurdle is the decline of consumption. As younger people and a changing population demographic are less connected to the wine occasion our role of connecting with the joys of responsible wine consumption is an industry challenge that suppliers and retail need to work together on. Health is important to people, so messaging is of increasing relevance going forward.

“We also need to work together on creating a clearer shopping experience for wine consumers both in a retail and on-premise environment. Another potentially surprising challenge we are experiencing is the recruitment of people into the industry. In an age of low unemployment and changing workforce needs recruitment has become an ongoing challenge for businesses like ours particularly with, (but not restricted to) more remote regional sites.”

The conversation around wine is a critical one, whether it’s to educate, advertise or engage, and Carroll highlights the importance of communication moving into 2019, from coordinated industry responses to anti-alcohol lobbying, to clear and effective bottle labels and the use of social media to connect.

“Social media enables us to be focused with our communication by connecting with the consumers that have potential to resonate with our brands. The balance between engaging and overwhelming our followers along with creating appropriate content are the areas we continue to grapple with.

“How the industry formulates and communicates proactive and positive messaging against the increasing noise from the anti-alcohol lobby and associated groups is important and impacts the entire industry. This in our view is the single biggest impact on curtailing the decline in overall consumption per capita. The more support that can be generated from outside the industry to manage the perception of self-interest will be important.”

This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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