If the wine industry had a collective Achilles heel it would be that category, market and consumer insights are not used to their full potential. But this is an area that Kingsland Drinks has looked to make one of its key points of difference – data and its insights team are at the heart of the company and it has invested in resource and increased its focus in this area to give the business a competitive edge. Here, Richard Siddle talks to Charles Overin, head of marketing, brand and insight and Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management, about the advantages this approach gives the company.
Consumer data and insights are only useful if you know what to do with them and help you make better product and brand decisions, says the team at Kingsland Drinks.
For Kingsland Drinks’ Charles Overin, understanding what makes the average consumer tick is the way he sees the world of wine. He knows the importance of understanding insights and how to use them to grow sales. It’s clear it’s a role he relishes. The chance to go under the radar and really understand what it is that consumers are interested in and, crucially, what drives them make one decision over another.
What particularly excites Overin about the potential of the insights at Kingsland Drinks is literally how much of it there is. As this is a business that sources wine from all over the world, be it for brands, or the firm’s extensive customer base, Kingsland is working in every channel of the market, and therefore needs to understand a large pool of consumers.
“Consumer data and insights are only useful if you know what to do with them - that’s what helps make better products and brand decisions. We embark on every project, be it for own label, branded, convenience, multiples or the on trade, with a focus on the category opportunity and developing this collaboratively with customers. We build brands that stretch the category into new areas, whether it’s new formats, countries, regions, varietals or styles. That’s how we make a difference.”
Investing in data
It’s important to be open to various sources and not rely on just one data bank - IRI and Nielsen are critical, he says, but so is data from our customers. It’s what drives broader thinking and zooms in on the shopper.
He says you can often look at brands that have not worked and can see they were “not aligned to a particular customer or category need”.
Understanding the motivations, and wider corporate strategy of its major retail customers is also crucial, stresses Overin. It’s why it has recently signed up with the IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) to receive its independent retail analysis. This gives Kingsland a broader view of their wider corporate strategy and how and where wine might fit into that.
“There are lots of benefits of working with the IGD. It gives us a well-rounded view of our customers’ strategy, and they have earned a lot of trust in the sector,” says Overin.
In terms of customer data, Overin says the devil is in the detail – it’s getting down to the actual scan and member data gathered in-store to build a picture of the customer buying a particular wine.
He says Kingsland Drinks works particularly closely with Co-op to really drill down into its customer base to understand what its shopper is looking for.
“Be it rate of sale, loyalty, repeat purchase or price points that trigger a change or cross purchase, it can be used as part of the story and how we move forward in defining fresh opportunities. It helps make you a better supplier to them.”
Overin gives the example of one of Kingsland Drinks’ brands – Campaneo – that had started to see a downturn in sales some time ago. By analysing Dunnhumby data (which works closely with Tesco) it could see the packaging was a problem. By restaging the branding to feature stronger Spanish cues it was able to prove the brand’s value to Tesco and attract the shopper.
“It has also meant we understand the Spanish market more now and what opportunities there might be in terms of different varieties and price points” he adds.
Interestingly, Overin says Kingsland Drinks also looks at what is going on in other FMCG and grocery categories to keep on top of trends and changes in consumer behaviour.
It has also been looking at the wider low and no alcohol category and what is going on in beers and spirits to get a better take on what might be relevant for wine.
“We look at what beer and spirit brands have done well and what we can learn from that,” says Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management. “We also look at trends around formats and packaging and what is working both in and outside the drinks categories. It is important to track adjacent categories to see what we might be able to tap into in terms of flavours and styles.”
Challenging the market
So, what are the key challenges that are having an impact on the overall wine category? Overin believes there are three main areas contributing to the decline in sales: existing wine consumers who are cutting back on alcohol consumption; younger drinkers who aren’t buying wine; and those buying the same wines regularly, without trying anything new or trading up.
How relevant is wine to the younger consumer base? What needs to be done to make wine more attractive and appealing to them? How has wine consumption evolved among existing drinkers and what is coming next? How do we encourage them to try new varietals, regions, and price points? That is what supermarket buyers want the answers to, says Overin.
Which means really understanding what it is they are drinking and working it out from there. What is it about craft beers, RTDs that are so appealing? What formats and flavours are most in demand?
That’s what helps Kingsland Drinks and its product development teams work with its customers to create brands that can appeal to that consumer demographic that might take their cues from spirits, craft beer and RTDs, adds Taylorson.
Working with customers
A category perspective from both sides of the fence is crucial, according to Kingsland Drinks.
“We did a full analysis with Co-op on their wine performance last autumn and together, were able to identify some opportunities in their range at both price and country of origin level” explains Overin.
As a result, Kingsland sourced a targeted selection of wines that it believed had the potential to win the Coop shopper.
“It is a long process to get right, but if you can identify the opportunity and source the right wines then you can make a big difference,” says Overin. “That is the way we want to work. Through strategic partnerships with more of our customers.”
It has also been working with Whitbread to identify which trends are going to drive its offering forward.
“By working with CGA (the insights business) and the wider team here, we’ve been able to go to Whitbread with a razor sharp view on how its range can be adapted for its customers. Be it wine-based cocktails, or a wider rosé selection, we look right across the board and at the results of a gap analysis,” he says. “We can then look at how to best communicate those changes to its wine range on its menus.”
“Format size is also important in the on-trade” says Taylorson.
Kingsland has also been able to develop bespoke branded ranges that work in different channels of the market. Its Bear & Star range is specifically created for the on-trade with a selection of both 187ml and 75cl. “This helps pubs introduce more wines by the glass, knowing they will maintain freshness, and gives customers a choice that helps them moderate their drinking”, explains Taylorson.
Insights and buying
Kingsland is able to use its insights to steer its buyers. It might sound obvious but having an insights-driven buying strategy, versus following currency movements and where the big volumes of low-priced wines are, is a step change.
“It is a crucial part of our strategy and feeds all departments internally and how we work with our customers,” claims Overin.
“It gives us a big point of difference compared to our competitor set. It means we can make recommendations to our customers about what opportunities there might be in terms of own label and then go out and source the wine, create the brand and design the packaging for it. We have the insights to really develop those relationships with our customers.”
Then there is the growth in online and social media and what role wine has to play in direct to consumer and the fast growing on-demand grocery delivery apps.
“As an industry, we need to know which platforms are right for wine, and as a company define where we want our brands to play. Be it Facebook, TikTok or Instagram, we’re looking at the consumer and how they interact with those platforms when it comes to wine and how our brands need to engage with them,” says Overin.
Kingsland hopes to cement its position as a key potential partner for online players. “We want to be a category manager for online. A lot of retailers are looking at what needs to be done online and we’re exploring how we can help them,” says Overin.
This means doing a lot of testing and learning to see how it is best placed to offer value added services, adds Taylorson. “We have to analyse how our brands look online and make sure they look as good online as they do in-store or on a bar. Is the website optimised for a smartphone or laptop? It’s a category challenge and we’re making strides with it”.
It is, for example, working with Getir, the on-demand grocery delivery app, with some of its brands, most noticeably the sustainable The Hidden Sea wine brand that pledges to take plastic out of the sea for every bottle sold.
“We want to do more in that space,” says Taylorson. “We see it as a big opportunity.
“The pandemic has made people reassess how they buy beers, wines and spirits and people have moved to buying online like never before. Now we have rapid delivery apps used for everyday consumption,” says Overin.
Kingsland Drinks hopes to play its part in better understanding what is stopping younger people coming into the wine category. It recognises there are “gaps” in the industry’s “understanding” of how it is going to turn that round.
“Is it the format, the complexity of the category, the flavour profile, the styles? There is nothing definitive on all that yet. But there are clearly barriers and we are doing what we can to understand them,” explains Overin.
Which is why it also spends so much time looking at other categories and broader consumer trends to better understand the needs of the wine market.
“By placing insights at the heart of the entire journey, it’ll drive the category forward and, in the end, that’s good for everyone” he adds.
Kingsland Drinks is a partner supplier to The Buyer. You can find our more about them here.