I Heart Feels the Love

08 June, 2017

Copestick Murray’s I Heart range has taken the market by storm since its launch in 2011 and annual retail sales have now broken through the £45 million barrier (Nielsen). It has surged into the UK’s top 20 wine brands and has the bestselling Prosecco and Pinot Grigio in impulse.

An obvious strength is the way it evokes emotion in the purchase, as consumers declare their love for Merlot, Pinot Grigio or Shiraz, but another advantage is the way it transcends regions and countries. By focusing on the grape variety and strong packaging, Copestick Murray can source the juice that offers the best price- to-quality ratio from anywhere in the world and sidestep volatile currencies and poor harvests.

But now it is also moving into regional offerings, and it is going after Campo Viejo, Villa Maria, Trivento, Martini and other market- leading brands as it seeks to push into higher price points. It has just launched an Argentinian Malbec, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Rioja and an Asti, and sees no reason why it cannot compete with the bestsellers in each category.

“Even though there are a lot of Rioja and Asti brands, they are very dominated [by Campo Viejo and Martini] and I Heart has a great opportunity to take those brands on,” says managing director Robin Copestick. “There are loads of Malbecs, but only Trivento is really doing well.”

When asked how quickly it can expect to rival these market leaders, market manager Lucy Auld is bullish. “It’s a challenge, because we are going up against some really established brands, but we are fast becoming an important player in this category,” she says. “We have the leading Prosecco and Pinot Grigio in impulse and we are doing well in total market, so I think we have every chance. We are investing in the brand.

“To go from launching in 2011 to a brand that’s worth more than £46 million in retail sales value alone – and it’s still seeing double-digit growth year on year – it is a real success story.”

The new wines will be more expensive than the existing I Heart SKUs, but the supplier aims to be slightly lower in price than the leading brands in these categories. “The Rioja and Malbec are around £8,” says Auld. “Trivento is £8.50 at the moment in Tesco, and Campo Viejo has just had a price increase as well. We are hoping the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will be around £8.50, which makes it really competitive in that market, because Villa Maria is over £9 now and the last time I looked Oyster Bay was £9.75. It really stacks up against those wines. We need to benchmark against the most successful in the market.

“For existing consumers, it is trading them up to something a bit more special. It’s also talking to new consumers and showing them a slightly more serious side of I Heart, so it will bring in some new consumers too. But we are still keeping the fun element. Our aim is to be at an accessible price point and be an accessible wine.”

CENTRALISED BOTTLING

Robin Copestick, managing director

Six months ago I Heart was being bottled in different places around the world. But, apart from regional wines that have to be bottled at source in the likes of Rioja and Prosecco, everything has now been centralised at the Henkell headquarters in Germany. Henkell, one of Europe’s largest producers, bought a 60% stake in Copestick Murray in 2013 and the remaining 40% last year. Oenologist Manuella Webber Witt, who has a PhD in winemaking and has worked in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Italy and Germany, now makes all the wines at the Henkell base.

“It helps us maintain quality, which is important, and consistency,” says Copestick. “A really good brand for I Heart to benchmark is Jacob’s Creek, because with Jacob’s Creek you always know you are going to get a decent bottle of wine. It’s really trustworthy. With I Heart if someone is buying a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, it has to taste like Sauvignon Blanc, and that’s why we take more care over the quality than most brands. The consumer is giving us the message they love something, and we have to reward them by giving something loveable back.”

Webber Witt says she is striving for consistency. She enjoys every aspect of the wine industry, from working with the vines and soil to tractor driving, laboratories, sales, marketing and education. However, her favourite part is tasting wines from different countries and discovering new tastes and cultures, and I Heart gives her the opportunity to work on different styles from across the world.

Copestick says the tie-up with Henkell has allowed Copestick Murray’s sparkling wine sales to flourish. “In 2013 we sold about 100,000 bottles, last year we sold more than 5 million bottles and this year we will probably sell 8 million bottles, so that’s all incremental growth to the company that we would not have had without Henkell,” he says.

I Heart accounts for around 30% of Copestick Murray’s volume sales, and the brand only looks set to grow. It sold 10 million bottles in the past year, of which 1.2 million were exports, and that side of the business is flying. A deal with Lufthansa should see German sales grow by at least 500,000 bottles, and another 2 million could come from the Netherlands through better distribution.

But the UK will continue to be its leading market. It has built up its success in the convenience channel, but Copestick believes it will eventually be in all multiple grocers. “The brand is performing very well in Tesco,” he says. “Sainsbury’s was the first national grocer to take it and it has remained loyal to the brand. The other multiples have been a bit slow to take it up. They keep saying ‘come back to us when it’s a real brand’. We are now in the top 20 without them, so one day I’m convinced they will take it. If one or two do take it we will get into the top 15 and then the top 10 and then everybody will take it.”




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