Accolade Wines took the market by storm when it launched Echo Falls Fruit Fusions in 2014 as it brought innovation to a stagnant market and won over millennials in their droves.

Still wine sales have been declining in volume and just about holding value for several years, and the UK’s largest supplier was looking to drive growth and inject life into the category.

Adding fruit to cider had been a resounding success for the likes of Kopparberg – which is extremely popular among younger adults –
so Accolade took a leaf out of its book and came up with three new drinks under the Echo Falls umbrella.

The 11% abv Raspberry & Cassis variant and the Peach & Mango and Summer Berries flavours – both 9.5% abv – all featured on Nielsen’s top 10 BWS launches of the year.

Nielsen said Accolade had created a sub-category by itself and was impressed with how it over-indexed among millennials.

The burgeoning category was given a boost last year when Asda launched dedicated bays in its stores for fruit-flavoured wines and brought in an own-label range.

A host of launches have since hit the market – including Gallo’s Pineapple & Passionfruit and Raspberry & Lime variants, plus ranges from the likes of Félix Solis, Free Run Wines, Broadland, Hauser, Blue Nun and Australian Vintage – but Accolade still dominates the category.

It is still performing very well among millennials, bringing younger drinkers into the wine category with engaging packaging, accessible liquid and compelling marketing.

We caught up with Accolade marketing director Amy White to find out how the category is performing, what challenges it faces and where the opportunities for continued growth lie.

How big is the fruit fusions wine category in terms of volume and value?

The fruit fusions category is now worth more than £48 million and, of that total, Echo Falls Fruit Fusions accounts for 91% of all sales within this category. The Echo Falls Fruit Fusions range is now worth £43.5 million. (Total UK off-trade. Source: Nielsen, 52 weeks to January 2, 2016.)

How is your brand performing in terms of volume and value?

The growth and success of Echo Falls Fruit Fusions has certainly exceeded all our expectations when we launched the range in 2014. We have now sold more than 9 million bottles and the range is listed in all major retailers and continuing to perform well.

All three of the original flavours launched featured in Nielsen’s Top 10 BWS launches of 2014 and, since then, we’ve picked up numerous industry awards.

How is the category performing in terms of shopper penetration?

The fruit fusions category is proving important to growing total wine shopper penetration levels. With Echo Falls Fruit Fusions particularly, the range is continuing to bring new consumers into the wine category and, even now, 40% of total Echo Falls Fruit Fusion sales are incremental to the wine category as a whole. More than 2.4 million households have purchased a bottle of Echo Falls Fruit Fusions
in the past year and this number is steadily rising. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel, 52 weeks to January 3, 2016)

Will it continue to grow or will it hit a natural peak and plateau when it captures a small segment of the market?

The fruit fusions category is still in its early stages of development and new products are constantly entering the market.  The category has huge potential for further growth and expansion but no one can really predict how big it will get. We believe the strength of the Echo Falls brand and our innovation programme will continue to keep the category exciting for our newbie/millennial consumers and that is what we are focusing on.

How important is this category for recruiting consumers into wine?

This category is extremely important for recruiting new consumers into wine. Despite being in the market for more than 18 months, 40% of Echo Falls Fruit Fusions sales are
coming from consumers who are incremental
to the wine category as a whole. The fruit fusions category has proved successful in recruiting the younger generation with a sweeter palate, as 41% of spend is from shoppers under the age of 45 compared, to only 21% for total still wine. (Source: Kantar Worldpanel, 52 weeks to January 3, 2016)

Do you think it deserves to be given more shelf space?

The fruit fusions category is fast growing, so retailers should consider giving the appropriate level of space to these products. Where possible, they should also merchandise whites and rosés in chiller units to fully maximise on the impulse purchase occasion. 

Asda is really championing this category in a big way. Can you see other retailers following suit, or do certain retailers have a shopper demographic particularly suited to this category?

Asda was an early adopter of this new category and certainly helped fuel the growth since its launch. Speaking with particular reference to Echo Falls Fruit Fusions, these products do have a generally younger shopper profile but as fruit fusions does such a  good job of recruiting new shoppers into the wine category, arguably it suits any given retailer’s demographic.

What is driving growth in this category?

We strongly believe that constant innovation and excitement in this category is one of the fundamental reasons it’s continuing to grow as fast as it is. The younger, millennial consumer is always looking for something new to experiment with and Echo Falls Fruit Fusions offers this in an easier drinking, sweeter style. Now available across multiple flavours and formats, we believe there is something for everyone looking to step into the wine category and the stats would tend to agree.

Why should retailers stock it and get behind it? Alongside driving profits, is it important for retailers’ images to be seen as promoting lower-alcohol wines?

Fruit wine is a growing trend so retailers should make sure they are capitalising on its success. We believe it’s important for retailers to offer a balanced range and this should include lower-alcohol wines for those consumers looking for a non-soft drink, alcohol alternative. We recently relaunched Echo Falls zero-alcohol sparkling, which is seeing growth where listed, proving that more and more consumers are starting to seek out non-alcohol alternatives to wine.