Sounds like you have been drinking all three. What are you talking about?
That's actually my point. We might in the wine trade be obsessed with all things to do with grapes and vines, but the majority of our customers aren’t. Wine is just one of a number of drinks they might have during the average week or month.
Yes, but what’s that got to do with beers and spirits?
Well, think it through. It makes sense for us to know the kinds of other drinks our wine customers are also purchasing. What sort of beers, ciders or spirits do they turn to on a night out? In an ideal world we would also know the kind of food they like, what sort of restaurants they go to, the holidays they go on. All of which help us build up a 360 degree picture of the kind of customer we are trying to attract. For deciding what sort of wine you want has become more of a lifestyle choice, as it is a desire to drink a particular grape variety or explore a certain wine region.
“Too often our trade teams are split category by category and never the twain shall meet. Sommeliers are in charge of the wine, and bartenders stick to their cocktails.”
OK sounds interesting. What else?
Looking at consumers more as drinkers rather than just through the prism of wine allows us to see them in a completely different way. It helps us to understand, for example, why there has been such a surge in interest in craft beers and spirits in the last three or four years. Products that are much easier to produce and tap in to the overall general consumer demand to explore and try out new things and experiences. We have talked a lot before about how the smart phone has not only opened our eyes to so many more possibilities in our lives, but has made it far easier to go out and get them. We are no longer having to rely on the tried and tested and the likes of Judith Chalmers to tell us which holidays to go on, or Delia Smith what dishes to cook. We are constantly on the look out for what’s new, different and exciting. The world has opened up and it’s all available at the touch of a button.
So what are we seeing across the drinks trade?
Supermarket drinks aisles and pub back bars are now made up of brands and products that have been created to serve a specific consumer need or drinking occasion. It is why we have seen such an explosion in new beers, ciders and spirits that are constantly changing before our eyes. Those categories have been far quicker to realise the need to personalise, even pigeon hole if you like, their offer and target specific customer groups or create brands that are occasion and experience driven. They also don’t have to rely on the vagaries of the weather and annual harvests to get their products on shelf.
And what about wine?
Just look at the two big wine success stories in the last three years. Sparkling wine and rosé. Both are, in their own way, riding the same wave that has been so successful for craft beer and spirits producers. Products that are on the one hand aspirational, yet affordable, but are also creating specific drinking occasions for consumers to enjoy and treat themselves.
So wines, beers and spirits should work together?
Well, for all the talk of having separate bespoke trades for wines, spirits and beers, they are usually all sold together, or at least next to each other. Be it in the BWS fixture of a supermarket or across the back bar of the average pub or bar. The majority of independent wine merchants also sell beers and spirits. And if they don't they probably should be. But how much notice do we take of what is being sold in which category and why? Too often our trade teams are split category by category and never the twain shall meet. Sommeliers are in charge of the wine, and bartenders stick to their cocktails. Yet watching, analysing and talking to your customers about the beers and spirits they buy will teach you a lot about the kinds of wines you should be listing too.
In what way?
It can help determine quite how adventurous your customers are, and how willing they are to pay for it. Do they stick to the Stella and Gordon’s or prefer a Belgian Pilsner and small batch distiller. How happy are they to trade up to exotic beers and untried spirits?
Forget the drinks industry for inspiration. You could just ask them if they would stick or twist at 14 in Blackjack. If they twist, go heavy on the Grüner Veltliner, local craft ale and Bathtub gin and if they stick, keep stocking up on the Pinot Grigio, Fosters and Smirnoff.