VinExpo embraces wine market shift

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Bordeaux - VinExpo, described as the largest gathering of wine and
spirits buyers and sellers in the world, is this year also a
showcase of the industry's response to a rapidly changing consumer
market, reports Ahmed ElAmin in Bordeaux.

People may be drinking more wine and spirits worldwide, but the two sides of the alcoholic beverage market have different futures, and strategies, to contemplate at a time when global consumption is increasing. Tastes are also becoming more diverse and more expensive, according to a study released at this year's bi-annual event.

What is noticeable this year is the increased marketing aggressiveness of the French and Italian wine makers, who continue to watch in dismay as their export markets are being eaten into by upstarts from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Portugal.

In the spirits market, the makers of gin, bourbon and Scotch continue to lose ground to vodka, which remains the world's highest selling tipple. In response, those losing ground are targeting their products at specific consumer markets through more exciting brands and more vibrant packaging.

Witness the efforts of the French LaFragette group, which sells both wine and spirits, including the Alizé coolers. This year it is showcasing Pink, a rosé wine targeted at women and clubs. Later this year the group will release individual bottled servings of the wine, displayed at VinExpo with straws to drink it with. It has also launched a cognac called XO for Men, sold in bottle that looks like it belongs in a perfume store.

Around the French wine stalls the word "crise​" or "crisis" is often overheard, as overall their wine exports continue to fall. A forecast study released by UK consultancy IWSR​ this week indicates they have cause to be worried.

France will remain the leading exporter of still light wine, but its exports will decrease by 3.62 per cent by 2008, the consultancy said. Italy will experience a 37.6 per cent loss of exports during the same period as wine from Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Portugal become more appealing to consumers according to the IWSR forecast.

Meanwhile, world wine retail sales are expected to increase by 62.5 per cent over the next decade, with retail revenues from wine sales forecast to rise by 23.5 per cent. Most of the growth will occur for wine selling at more than €5 per bottle and this will represent a quarter of consumption in 2008, IWSR said.

Overall, consumers drank about 30bn 75cl bottles in 2004 and will drink about 31.66bn in 2008, with the growth occurring in the Italian, US, UK, Scandinavian and Russian markets. France has gone the other way and is expected to lose its place as the top wine consumer in the world, falling to third place by 2008 as the US takes the number one spot.

Italy will maintain the second largest market by volume. In terms of retail value the US will continue to be the world's top market in 2008, followed by the UK and France. The UK was the fifth largest wine market by value in 1999 while France was in second place. Scandinavia and Russia will overtake Spain in terms of retail value during the same period.

Overall retail sales of imported still light wines will increase by 62.5 per cent over the next ten years, IWSR forecast. US and UK consumers are expected to increase their yearly per capita consumption of wine. In the US, consumption is forecast to rise to 13.1 litres per person by 2008 from 10.9 litres in 2003, a 20.1 per cent increase. Per capita consumption in the UK is forecast to rise to 28 litres per person by 2008 from 24.8 litres in 2003, a gain of 12.9 per cent.

In the spirits market, overall world consumption is forecast to increase by a fifth in volume and 22.5 per cent by value over the next 10 years, IWSR forecast. While 60 per cent of spirits consumption involves local beverages like soshu and sake in Asia, the world sales leader remains vodka.

VinExpo, which ends on 23 June, attracted 2,400 sellers from around the world this year. An estimated 45,000 visitors from 43 countries in Europe, North America and Asia are expected to attend. The show is open only to professional buyers, tasting experts and the press. Buyers represent the big supermarkets such as Auchan in France, Tesco in the UK, Ahold in the Netherlands, retailers such as Harrods, along with airline companies, hotels, and trading and import firms. In 2004 global wine and spirits sales reached $267.3bn (€2.2bn).

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