Kingsland Drinks has been willing to cast its wine buying net out far and wide over the last 12 months in order to find wines it believes can have genuine stand out on shelf or on a back bar. It has taken its buying controller, Adam Marshall, as far as India and Moldova as he has looked to add even more value and interest to the range of European wines he mostly looks after. Here in our latest look back on 2019 we ask him to share his Buying Year.
Our sights might be set on 2020 but it’s what happened with the 2019 vintage across Europe that will dictate so many buying decisions going int 2020 says Kingsland Drinks’ buying controller for Europe, Adam Marshall.
How was 2019 for you in terms of buying, sourcing and availability of wine?
A good year as 2018 vintage in Europe was abundant and good quality.
Which areas were the most successful in terms of value and availability?
We have seen good growth in Moldova and Spain over the past 12 months with high quality and excellent pricing.
Moldova is a fantastic source of varietal wines – such as Feteasca Neagra and Saperavi – and in recent years has made significant progress in the UK market. Kingsland Drinks has won medals with Moldova’s Racovita Pinot Grigio, proving that Moldova is doing much more than just fulfilling volume quotas.
Rioja continues to be a real driver of premium quality for us with sales of Baron de Ley Reserva performing well all year round, but especially in the run up to Christmas.
Portugal has been another star for us as consumers really appreciate the great variation in styles combined with terrific value available from across the country.
Do you see that continuing into 2020?
The 2019 vintage has been more challenging across Europe and whilst we still expect to see growth – especially in the mid to premium sectors – some pricing at the lower end could be challenging.
If not which areas do you see as doing well in 2020 and what are you doing to respond?
Italy is looking to take advantage of a vintage that has been less affected than, for instance, Spain. I would expect to see a lot of focus on the classics such as Pinot Grigio, Chianti and Prosecco.
Germany has had a tough vintage and this will challenge pricing a bit, however the naturally lower alcohol levels and fresh flavours from Germany really play into the consumer trends at the moment.
How do you decide to take on a new producer or wine partner – what criteria do you use?
The most important criteria is market relevance. There are hundreds of producers out there who are doing a great job in terms of wine quality, but what do they have that will open doors for us with our customers and consumers. Why would their product work better on shelf than an existing product? What is the USP? In a declining market there has to be a reason to buy.
Following this we have a strict set of quality criteria that any partner has to be able to achieve. Again, in a declining market it is our job to make life simpler for our customers and more rewarding for consumers.
Is the UK’s profile and position in the world getting better, worse or the same and why?
We have been a tough market for price for a long time. The decline in volumes has certainly made us a tougher proposition – allied to the fact that we are a relatively mature market so the opportunities can be fewer. However, on the positive front, there is a return to looking at provenance and quality – along with a certain amount of exploration – which is attractive for producers. A few years ago, many saw “quick bucks” to be made in China and the US which compared well to the UK, but I think we are turning a corner right now.
What trends are you seeing in terms of what styles of wine are working the best in the market with customers?
Certain groups of consumers are drinking less wine and fewer alcoholic drinks, and when they do drink, they are becoming more mindful in their choices which has had an effect on penetration in the wine category. Mindful drinking and the sober curious movement have led to the trend for drinking no- and low-alcohol products and non-alcoholic drinks, with health and wellness being the main motivating factor.
This trend means that low and no alcohol products are very much on our radar. We are focused on finding the best quality products within the category and are working on various projects from zero alcohol all the way up to 9%.
What bulk wine trends are you seeing in terms of availability and value?
This will always be driven by the vintage conditions, so 2019 vintage is one where buyers should commit early to be sure of supplies at the right quality and price.
Are you buying wine more to fit into different formats like on tap, keg, can?
Last year we invested in our operations to include the capability to pack 50cl bottles. This was off the back of research into formats and health in collaboration with YouGov which demonstrated that consumers want more convenient bottle sizes for a mid-week glass of wine with a friend or partner, and a slightly smaller format to avoid wastage.
We’ve seen 50cl bottles become more widely available in the off-trade over the last 12 months and sales are building as consumers become even more familiar.
We are also focusing on ensuring our Bag-in-Box formats are as sustainable as possible as well as aligned with consumer needs. Over recent months, we have conducted consumer research into acceptance of various sizes and shapes of Bag-In-Box. Getting the format right, along with best in practice sustainability, could see a resurgence in the Bag-In-Box category, providing it is communicated well.
Another industry buzzword is cans; we’ll be seeing more and more of this format, and understandably so. Cans are perfect for on the go and informal social occasions, they’re lightweight, recyclable and event friendly. Wine in a can is in its infancy but growing, so it’ll be interesting to see how the UK market follows the US, where canned wine is more established and widespread.
Overall thoughts going into 2020:
Where are the biggest opportunities?
Premiumisation – whilst it’s not going to change the industry overnight there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.
And the biggest challenges?
That 2019 vintage again!
What are you doing to meet those opportunities and challenges?
Key for Kingsland is to have a broad supply base – bottled and bulk – that can fulfil all the market needs, propose new opportunities and remain flexible to follow vintage conditions.
Any highlights for 2019?
Business wise it was launching our joint venture with Soul Tree Indian wines. It’s been a fascinating journey and I am looking forward to the success to come!
Personally its being seeing my middle child start her fine arts degree at Slade School of Fine Art in London.
Crazy monsoon conditions in Mumbai whilst visiting our Indian supply partners – literally rivers in the streets and our taxi getting further and further off the beaten track to try and get us to the airport in time for our flight. Hoped and prayed. It worked!
Best drinking and eating experience you had in 2020?
The tasting menu at Brockley Hall in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Amazing!
What did you do for Christmas?
I was at home with the family. Nice wines (and spirits) – not too much food.
What did you drink?
Some English Sparkling and decent German Riesling
What did you watch?
It didn’t matter what it is – I fell asleep during it!
What is your favourite Christmas song?
I spent four years running a Bottoms Up at the start of my career – the Christmas tapes were on a permanent loop from mid-November – believe me there are no favourites after that!