Monday, January 27, 2020

Take Away from the VINPRO Information Day

I first attended this information day many years ago when it was still hosted in the Lord Charles Hotel, Somerset West. It has very quickly grown to an annual event with an attendance warranting a much bigger venue. The past couple of years it is held at the CTICC with around 800 people from across all platforms of the Wine Industry.  A big attribute for the growth in the number of attendees must be the wonderful selection of speakers that VINPRO are able to invite. I remember one of my favorite speakers in the past was Harald Pakendorf, Political Analyst & Author, who through his very quirky way of portraying his message had listeners in stitches. It was like a stand-up comedian show for the most part, whilst being very serious about the state of our country. Another one was Max du Preez, but there has been some really insightful segments over the years, doesn’t matter what part of the industry you are interested in.

What was my take away from the 2020 version?

According to figures the real explosion of plantings started mid 90’s to early 2000’s and we all know what glut of especially Red Wine that caused mid 2000’s onwards. It went from 80000ha to well over 100 000ha and in the past number of years with uprooting decreased it with projected figures of 80000ha in 2024. Is this not maybe a good thing? Should SA not rather have 80 000 – 90 000ha of healthy vineyards planted in the rights areas? 

Should our focus be to compete with the big volume players of the world i.e France, Italy, Spain etc. whilst we don’t have the vineyard coverage to OR rather lower production but with focused plantings making sure we can increase our quality? I am a firm believer that “Less is more” for many things and in this case I would venture that way as well. If we can produce 700 million liters of great quality wine consistently and change the perception of Brand SA then we can manage price points better & adapt our price increases better across the board. However herein lies the biggest challenge…CHANGE PERCEPTION…all of the above will only be a dream if we cannot do that. We need to create a demand for South African Wine otherwise we will only make up the numbers, which in an extremely over-traded market worldwide will not be enough to keep producers in business.

So here are my thoughts – appreciate that this need substance & content to drive it:

1.       Create Demand
2.       Produce Less
3.       Produce Better
4.       Positive Price Point Management

I must say that a big reason for my attendance was listening to Andreas Clarke from Wines of Australia. Watching the video of Adelaide Hills and the damage of the recent fires definitely brought a lump to my throat, I won’t lie. The visual impact was huge on everyone in the room, but the resilience of the people there are so close to what we know as South Africans as well. We can and should learn a lot from the Aussies, just look at the success of all their sport teams consistently across all forms. So you have to trust that whatever they do they do it properly!

To be honest what he showed us in terms of their events, collaboration and marketing in their select markets was great, but nothing new and the only big difference between WOA and WOSA…the big old MARKETING BUDGET / FUNDING!!! One can only imagine what we could achieve if our industry had even a quarter of the budget to work with to those of other countries. However, this cannot be an excuse, we need to work clever, collaborate more and start speaking with the same voice rather than see our wine neighbour as competition or enemy!

We have everything that the market is asking & looking for: Personalities, Stories, diverse offering and much more. This need to be put into action but most importantly it has to be done properly, professionally and focused on the right target markets! We cannot afford to just do the dynamite approach. I believe that the success in changing people’s perceptions lies with us changing, influencing & convincing the Trade from top to bottom. Let’s work with and through them to change the minds & preconceived ideas of the consumer. They deal with them on a daily basis through their wine shops, restaurants, bars etc. With the limited budget that WOSA has including the money each producer allocates to their brand annually should be used with greater effect.

I don't believe that the future for SA Wine is selling sub $10 bottles of the USA our sweet spot should be between $20 - $30 on shelf! We can support this with consistent quality, A&P budgets and in the end still make good money.  

So let’s take a quick step back, gather ourselves & use this downturn of production, economy & emotions and see the opportunity that comes with it. The South African Wine Industry has a wonderful opportunity to carve out a legacy for ourselves in the global market, but no one is going to ask us. We need to go tell them!!!

Good Luck to all the Winemakers & Producers with Harvest 2020.