Port boss excited by the UK market

Fladgate Partnership chief executive Adrian Bridge has given the UK off-trade market a vote of confidence after fortified wine sales started to arrest years of decline.

In 2015 the category – which had been suffering – fell just 1% in volume and grew 1% in value after upping its average price per litre by 2% to £8.60 (Nielsen).

Port squeezed ahead of sherry, with £79 million in sales versus £78 million for sherry, according to Nielsen.

Taylor’s vies for the position of market leader with Cockburn’s, and Taylor’s supplier Fladgate Partnership is confident that the good times will continue to roll in the UK.

Bridge told OLN: “In the Nielsen MAT for 2015 port overtook sherry in value in the UK market. Port has grown a bit and sherry has lost quite a lot. Port has been going slowly and steadily upwards. The reason for that is a democratisation. It’s not just old people having vintage port. It’s much more readily available across the marketplace and enjoyed by a number of consumers and that has been a huge success.

“Taylor’s LBV is by far and away the leader in the UK market. It’s that wonderful level that gives you all the complexity and interest but it’s accessible at £15 a bottle, promoted to £12 sometimes.”

He added: “No business anywhere is easy. When we came into the recession in 2008 business was tough. No business has got easier but there is still business to be done.

There are other big macro stories playing out here. The way the consumer shops and willingness to embrace the discounters is leading a huge amount of the strategies pursued by the big grocers adapting to this new reality.

“Five years ago people were talking about the death of the independents and multiple specialists but the wine merchants that offer enthusiasm, knowledge and accessibility and strong customer service are doing really well. It’s exciting times.

“There is a lot of opportunity but we have to work for it. But that’s ok. We know how to do that. We take nothing for granted, but the opportunities are huge and I am very excited about the UK market. If you look at what is happening in craft beer – the backlash against homogenisation – it will only get more interesting.

“The wine industry has always been fragmented, but it’s very exciting. Engagement levels are exciting, people are beginning to talk consumers’ language. Yes, it’s using some quirky packaging but it’s saying wine is there to be enjoyed. Port benefits as it is seen as an aspirational product.

“Younger adults are very particular about their brands. We are absolutely where the millennial wants to be.

“Their fathers didn’t drink port. It might be their grandfathers that drank it.

Fortified wines have undoubtedly declined in the last 30 to 35 years. Port has bucked that trend. It has been growing while others have declined.”

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