On Tuesday, 6 September; Wines of South Africa hosted a workshop on the intricacies involved in entering the USA market. The title of the workshop was “Demystifying the American Market – Critical Pathways to Success”.
The opening speaker was Wines of South Africa’s Market Manager for the Americas and Africa, Mr. Matome Mbatha, who introduced the day’s proceedings to the delegates. He started off by saying that “the US market is very important but it poses a challenge due to strict legislation”. Matome then continued by saying that though the market is tough it does offer many opportunities as “it is the fastest growing market in terms of consumption”.
Andre Shearer, the CEO and Chairman of Cape Classics, was the speaker for the day and raised quite a few interesting points with regard to the US market. Andre started off by saying that the US market will help define the South African global brand just as it helped to define the Australian global brand. He continued by pointing out that the Australian market is not as successful as they once were and that their wave of success is receding. This creates an opportunity for South Africa to promote our wines due to the gap in the market.
Andre did however also caution that the American consumer is not as familiar with South Africa as the British and European consumers and those we would need to introduce them to both our country and wines collectively. Andre also pointed out that the lack of a coherent brand image for South African wine puts us at a serious disadvantage.
Other new world markets such as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina have been successful in the US due to them creating a collective brand identity around their cultivar strengths. For instance New Zealand has a price point monopoly in the US with regard to Sauvignon Blanc; similarly Argentina dominates the Malbec market and Australia the Shiraz / Syrah market.
Andre also went on to mention that we should perhaps focus on Chardonnay as the South African identifying cultivar as recent write ups in the US by influential wine critics such as Neal Martin have created a buzz. He also mentioned that Chardonnay makes up 30% of the US wine market and that this cultivar has proven to be South Africa’s most consistent white grape with regards to style and quality. Andre then stated that “if South Africa wants to develop a great weapon in the US, we should focus on Chardonnay to raise our profile in the US”.
After Andre’s very interesting talk on the US market we had the opportunity to taste eight of the best selling wines in the US to be able to identify what to look out for in our wines that would appeal to the US consumers. All eight wines were bold and had a great aromatic expression. Andre pointed out that “America is not a wine consuming country that prides itself on subtlety”.
The eight wines which we tasted were chosen because they are market leaders in their categories in America, all the wines were purchased in large quantities and were commercially successful.
The wines were as follows:
(For more information on each wine please click on the wine name)
2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand which sells at a retail price of $14.99
2009 Bogle Chardonnay from California which sells at a retail price of $9.99
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay from California which sells at a retail price of $19.99
2010 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier from California which sells at a retail price of $13.99
2009 Purple Moon Merlot from California which sells at a retail price of $3.99
2009 Folie a Deaux Menage a Trois Red Blend from California which sells at a retail price of between $9.99 and $12.99
2010 Alamos Malbec from Argentina which sells at a retail price of $10.99
2009 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon from California which sells at a retail price of $16.99
Andre ended his talk by saying that we (South Africa) should be celebrating what we can do and that we should “consciously decide what we can achieve with good wines in terms of our image in the US”.
It is a pity in my opinion that Andre’s message was only heard by a handful of producers in a half empty room at Backsberg. The inside information and industry ‘tips’ which were dealt were of great value to those lucky enough to hear it. What is even more surprising is the fact that the event was over booked (on paper more than 100 people paid to attend) yet only a marginal amount actually pitched up.
Please click here to view images from the event.
This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.