Small can be beautiful

ragile consumer confidence, a national debate about alcoholic intake … this should be boom time for the 50cl wine category.

But old habits die hard in the wine market and it’s taken a while for smaller-sized bottles to gain a foothold, both in terms of retail space and the  ?public’s imagination.

That could all be changing, with the entry of major brands from Australian Vintage, Pernod Ricard and Concha y Toro into the 50cl arena. None of these suppliers has a reputation for backing the wrong horse and consumer research suggests their bets are likely to pay off.

Wine Intelligence research asked people what would encourage them to choose wine for more occasions, and suggested a range of responses. Smaller bottle sizes emerged as the second highest-scoring answer among occasional wine drinkers, with 27% of respondents from this group saying they wanted a broader range of sizes. The top- scoring answer, for the record, was “a clear display of what the wine tastes like”.

Twelve per cent of consumers who drink wine regularly (at least once a month) also say smaller bottle sizes might result in them drinking more wine, more often. At a time when the wine trade is wondering where its next customers are going to come from, harnessing the marketing power of 50cl bottles looks like a sensible option.

ast autumn Australian Vintage and Concha y Toro formed a strategic partnership to inject some life into the 50cl category, which has traditionally been dominated by sweet and fortified styles. The deal resulted in a bespoke floor display in 600 Tesco Express stores, featuring brands from both portfolios: McGuigan Classic Grey Label Chardonnay and Shiraz, and Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A three-for-£10 promotion allowed consumers to mix and match brands.

Customer satisfaction?Australian Vintage’s UK and European general manager Paul Schaafsma believes “the trade needs to push 50cl as a category in its own right”. To that end, McGuigan has recently launched Black Label as a 50cl in the independent sector.

Simon Doyle, commercial director for Concha y Toro, says: “We see the 50cl format as an opportunity to satisfy a number of needs. Not only is it timely and relevant, given the current economic climate and the need to push the responsible drinking message, but it also responds to consumers’ occasion-driven purchases, such as midweek treats.”?Jason Duggan, the Chilean supplier’s global brands manager, adds: “The opportunities for this size lie in both convenience and impulse retail and the on-trade as a share size for two people. This has obvious benefits for portion control and responsible drinking, and is particularly relevant for lunchtime.”?It is, he adds, “an opportunity for people to drink better for an affordable per-bottle price – 50cl is proportionately cheaper than 75cl”.

Potential market?The Tesco trial has not yet led to a surge in interest from off-trade retailers – at least, not one that Concha y Toro has reported – but Duggan says there is brisk progress being made in the on-trade.

Jacob’s Creek has launched 50cl versions of its tri-varietal Three Vines range, which first appeared last September with an rrp of £4.99. It consists of a Shiraz/Grenache/Sangiovese (rosé), Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Viognier, and Shiraz/Cabernet/Tempranillo.

Pernod Ricard cites more Wine Intelligence research which gives it confidence the 50cl size has great potential.

More than one in five wine drinkers would consider purchasing a 50cl bottle rather than a 3-litre or 5-litre wine box, plastic bottle, wine bag/pouch or a 25cl single-serve bottle, it says. Forty-two per cent of these consumers are on the lookout for new products within the wine category, the research adds.

Consumers considering purchasing 50cl bottles are engaged with the wine market and prefer well-known brands; they also look for high-quality products.

Simon Thomas, deputy managing director for Pernod Ricard UK, says: “Through our consumer research we have established that consumers are eager to purchase a smaller bottle of wine from a brand they trust.

“Those who fancy a couple of glasses of wine, but would rather not finish a full bottle, or consumers looking for a unique wine, great to pair with a home-cooked dinner for two, now have a solution.”?Whether 50cl remains a market niche, or develops into a sub-category capable not only of driving market growth but recruiting occasional and lapsed consumers, will depend largely on how enthusiastic retailers are about the opportunity suppliers are convinced exists.