Simon Robertson, business development director for Inova Simple Inspiracion, spoke to BeverageDaily.com as he celebrated the signing of a contract with large wine trader Les Grands Chais de France.
Discussing Inova’s two single-serve PET wine packages – Quart Vin Glass and Singlz – Robertson said the firm realized in 2011 that it would never realize the economies of scale and price levels it needs to become competitive without partnering a large filler.
Thus, the contract with Les Grands Chais de France brings Inova economies of scale but also gives the firm access to their distribution system, and through that global reach.
Surviving the Shark Tank in the States
After Quart Vin Glass appeared on Shark Tank in the US, Roberston said the concept gained ground after its September launch and is now the fastest growing format in single-serve wine, on target for 10m unit sales in 2014.
Describing single-serve wine as an entrepreneurial area of the business, he said the people behind it are looking at different ways of getting publicity from (a) the format but (b) the concept at large.
The format works well at music concerts and sports stadia, Robertson explained, and was particularly effective when merchandized outside of the wine aisle – i.e. in fridges with beer and soft drinks.
“Part of the reason for its success in the US is distribution through the InBev, Budweiser system. It’s distributed by beer people, with beer mentality in its distribution working really well – we want to replicate that over here in Europe,” he said.
Robertson suggested that brewers and soft drinks firms were better at managing different sales channels, and formulating different consumer offers.
“We want to be next door to beer – we’ve achieved that in Holland, in the Singlz format we introduced it with Italian wine into Dutch railway stations, it’s being merchandized next to Heineken,” he said.
“So the consumer there has a clear choice – do you want a beer or a glass of wine? They’re actually side by side. For the first time there’s a wine option for someone who fancies wine over a beer or soft drink.”
Dialling down alcohol levels lends possibilities
Health and wellness concerns are also underpinning R&D around lower alcohol wines, and Robertson said this presented another opportunity
“We’ve already had a trial dialling down Rose to 10.5% and that worked really well – there’s a big opportunity again in zero-alcohol beer, which has taken off here in Spain in a big way. Because nowadays it actually tastes like beer, so the consumer can actually enjoy it,” he said.
So is it a race to the top in terms of rival solutions for the single-serve crown? Robertson believes not, given that Quart Vin Glass alone is covered by four patents and has been developed over 12 years
“Because there’s such complexity with oxygenation and wine, both Singlz and Quart Vin Glass have been developed for such a long time to get it right, and are patented,” he said.
“I think what’s more likely that other formats under development will come to us to use our patents, because the hard work’s been done,” he added.
“It’s a shelf life issue that’s driving the whole thing – these products are good for 12 months, they’ve been tested beyond 12 months, race has not been run but concepts out there tough to catch up with.”
Russia is a large, tempting target…
Looking to the future, Robertson agrees that ambient sales could work, with multipacks with shrink wrap along lines of Coca-Cola – say 6 or 8 packs that are ideal for picnics – but sees C-store fridge penetration as key.
Discussing the markets where Inova saw the most potential, Robertson said that thus far the US had only marketed native wines thus far in Quart Vin Glass, “which leaves it wide open for French, Spanish and Italian wines that we can fill and export from here – Portuguese as well”.
“The big markets of Europe – UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany – they’re our key focus markets for Europe. One of the really interesting ones, because of its quite young in terms of wine uptake, is the Russian Federation,” he said.
Given that 140m consumers –many of whom are young – were only just discovering wine, Robertson said there was potential to tempt Russian consumers away from beer and spirits.
“These products reduce the barrier to entry (since you can buy a quarter bottle or a single unit) to enter the category. Therefore, developing Russia and Eastern Europe is a big target for us,” he said