What Are UK Buyers Looking For?
Here are 6 different ways of thinking about how to position your wine to appeal to a potential UK buyer.
The latest “CBI Buyers’ Black Box for Wine,” published by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports in the Netherlands, offers some important insights about what UK buyers – as well as buyers throughout Europe – are looking for when it comes to new wines. Here are 6 different ways of thinking about how to position your wine to appeal to a potential UK buyer.
1. Wines that make a good match for an existing portfolio
The good news is that UK buyers are looking to identify and fill gaps in their wine portfolios. You can think of this portfolio approach from several different perspectives. The most common, of course, is based on price. From this perspective, there are five primary price categories: basic (under €3 per bottle), popular premium (between €3 and €5), premium (between €5 and €7), super-premium (between €7 and €14) and ultra-premium (between €14 and €150 per bottle).
Thus, when approaching a UK buyer, you need to take into account how your wine fits within an existing portfolio. A buyer, for example, may only be looking for a “super-premium” wine to round out a robust portfolio that already contains plenty of basic and popular premium wines. If you’re a winemaker from a New World nation, that might pose a number of difficult barriers, since wines from developing wine countries are typically assigned to the lowest price categories automatically.
However, you don’t have to focus only on price. UK buyers are typically looking for a diversified mix of quality, style, and origins as well. That places the onus on you as the supplier to study the existing portfolio of a potential buyer to see how you can add value to the range.
2. Wines that represent a great bargain for British wine drinkers
Within the UK, supermarket bulk buyers are an increasingly important segment of the marketplace. Unlike supermarket bulk buyers in Northern and Southern Europe, UK bulk buyers are willing to consider wines that are not from their home region. UK supermarkets will often employ winemakers who source grapes and can make wines according to their own specifications.
Where foreign suppliers can really shine is by becoming a part of the private label market. There are plenty of opportunities to take wines from a developing country and use them to create a “cheap and cheerful” wine that UK consumers will drink.
The important focus here, of course, is on providing a great bargain. At the lower end of the wine market, buyers are extremely price-conscious. As the CBI points out in its report, even a change in price from €5.99 to €4.99 can result in a doubling of the sales volume.
3. Wines that match up well with current consumption trends
Within the UK, just as within the EU, there will always be certain wines that are in favor and “on trend” with wine drinkers. For example, within some European countries, Rosé and Prosecco are having a real moment. And, within the UK, Pinot Grigio is the varietal of the moment.
Thus, as a wine supplier, it’s important to show an awareness of consumer trends. You want to be offering wines that consumers are drinking. You can think of it this way – a rising trend lifts all boats. If UK wine drinkers are clamoring for Pinot Grigio, they will be much less insistent on its country or region of origin.
4. Wines that UK buyers can trust
As the CBI points out in its report, factors like reputation, image and trust matter. When making a decision to import wines from a specific region or country, they want to be assured that they can trust the supply in terms of both timing and quality.
There are several factors to keep in mind here. One of these has to do with the macro-level political situation of the country. At one time, wines from South Africa (due to fears about apartheid) and Chile (due to fears about the Pinochet dictatorship) faced a hard time gaining traction in the marketplace.
To address this issue, the CBI recommends aligning with regional and/or national associations or selling groups. The goal is to project a single, unified image to buyers so that there are not any questions about political stability.
And, of course, there’s a lot that wine brands can do to address issues of trust and reputation on the micro-level. Top ratings from trusted wine critics matter, as do ratings in wine guides. Anything that you can do to emphasize the quality of your wine – ratings, reviews, medals – can be used to convince buyers that you will be a reputable supplier.
5. Wines that come with their own built-in marketing and promotion
It may seem surprising, but most UK buyers won’t share in the promotional costs for wines they add to their portfolio. This is a very important consideration since it means that any wine must come with its own built-in marketing and promotion budget.
For this reason, the CBI counsels winemakers from developing wine countries to think in terms of brands. This branding is important for two reasons: (1) it helps your wine to cut through the clutter of the thousands of other wines in the marketplace (2) it enables the buyer to list your wine at a higher price point.
6. Wines that are made by professional winemakers who cultivate strong relationships with UK buyers
Finally, it might sound like an oversimplification, but relationships matter. It’s much easier for UK buyers to make a positive decision when it’s clear that a winemaker from another country has a cultural awareness and understanding of the norms, habits, and customs within Britain. Having a winemaker who can converse in English is a definite bonus, as is a winemaker who can meet face-to-face with potential buyers at events such as wine trade shows.
Ultimately, wines that are backed by a professional winemaking team that understands pricing, promotion, and distribution will have a huge advantage over other potential suppliers, regardless of the quality of the wine. In many ways, it’s just as important to understand the broader UK market, and how “the system” works. That goes a long way to making sure that your wine is the one that’s selected to show up on retail shelves across Britain.
About London Wine Competition
The London Wine Competition is being launched to identify and reward those brands and products that consumers actually want to buy, rather than simply recognize good quality wines for their winemaking ability alone. To be a real success a wine brand has to be bought by consumers, be it on a supermarket shelf or a restaurant or bar's list. The London Wine Competition will single out and highlight the wine brands on sale in the UK and International markets that are truly commercially successful. Read more about how it works here.