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'Critters' prove the winning wine label formula

By Chris Mercer , 22-Mar-2006

More and more wineries are putting pictures of animals on their wine labels, a plan that has shown early success with younger, fun-seeking consumers, says a new report.

Wine marketers have drafted in various members of the animal kingdom, including kangaroos, crocodiles and penguins, as they attempt to make their wines look fun and dynamic.

The trend has given birth to a whole new category - critter wines - playing on American slang for animal.

Sales of critter wines, either branded around an animal or containing one on the label, have topped $600m (€497m) in the fast-growing US market, according to a new report from ACNielsen.

The report says 'critters' appear on the labels of 77 of the 438 table wine brands that have been launched and have sustained sales on the US market in the last three years.

"The sales generated by new brands featuring a critter outperform other new table wines by more than two to one," said Danny Brager, vice president of Nielsen's Beverage Alcohol Team.

Nielsen made the discovery after analysing three years of food sector data up to December 2005. The news offers extra insight to the many wine businesses looking to break into the increasingly lucrative US wine market.

"While placing a critter on a label doesn't guarantee success, it is important that wine makers realise that there is a segment of consumers who don't want to have to take wine too seriously," said Brager.

"Not only are they willing to have fun with wine, they may just feel 'good' about an animal label presentation."

ACNielsen does point out, however, that it can sometimes take more than a critter to sell wine. Pricing, quality, product placement and relationships with retailers still hold a lot of sway.

Even so, there are signs the critter trend is spreading its wings beyond the US.

Some French winemakers have also caught on to the idea, using animals on wine bottles to help consumers more easily combine different wines with certain foods.

Les Grands Chais de France, responsible for a fifth of French wine exports, last year launched a new product range with each bottle containing cartoon images of a different farmyard animal; indicating to consumers what meat they should drink the wine with.

In a variation on the theme, other French wines have subsequently appeared that are named after farm animals. The animal's name is printed in big letters down the bottle and serves as the wine's only label.

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