First Cape goes into lower-alcohol

Brand Phoenix is hoping to expand the lower-alcohol wine market with a 5.5% abv extension of its First Cape brand.

The Café Collection was initially launched three years ago as a 10% abv range, but is being reintroduced in response to research by the supplier which shows a growing demand for lighter, less alcoholic styles from recognised brand names.

Brand Phoenix, whose First Cape line is the fourth bestselling wine in the take-home market and South African market leader, said it had also reduced the Café Collection’s alcohol content to give retailers better margins as less duty is paid on lower-gravity wines.

The five-strong range is sourced from Australia and South Africa. It is priced to fit three-for-£10 promotions, or £3.99 for a single bottle and £5.99 for the two sparkling wines. The launch will be backed by a £2.5 million radio and TV campaign targeting women.

Joint director Greg Wilkins said: “Most zero or low-alcohol wines have been stigmatised because of their taste. First Cape’s Café Collection has taken three vintages to get it right – from which we have patented the process which uses a combination of stop ferment, spinning cone and a special blending method.

“The huge piece of research around this new product development showed clearly that consumers were already adding ice and sparkling water to their wines, to control the alcohol and extend their social occasions.

“Because of the alcohol strength of Café Collection, the still and sparkling wine gives consumers control.

“For the first time, it also gives them a range of options within one brand – which is what they are used to in nearly every other grocery category.”

Fellow director Steve Rosser added: “If ever there were a perfect time to launch this, it’s now.

“Shoppers are under financial pressure like never before and the price of the product delivers at exactly the level they are currently willing to spend.

"At the same time, commercially, soaring tax increases mean margins are under increased pressure. Because of their 5.5% abv, these wines are taxed at a lower rate, which gives retailers a real advantage.”

Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt said there was a gap in the market for lower-alcohol wines. “Given that we’re in such price-sensitive times, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more low-alcohol wines coming in,” he said.

“A lot of people who buy wine aren’t interested in abv, but want it to deliver on taste. Low abv wine could certainly do well if it falls into a keen price point.”