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Interview, Part Two: Damon Franzia On Classic Wines’ Import, Sake And Beer Portfolios

June 10, 2016

In Part Two of our interview with Damon Franzia, the general sales manager of Bronco’s Classic Wines unit discusses the import side, as well as Classic’s beer and sake portfolio.

SND: What’s selling in imported wine?

Franzia: New Zealand is hot. We’re currently launching a new Marlborough brand, Takā, with a Sauvignon Blanc ($12 to $13.99), and later this year we’ll add a Marlborough Pinot Noir ($19.99). We also market the NZ Chimney Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99). Among imports, France and Italy are still the top volume sellers. Rosé is no longer seasonal, and it’s driving our French sales. We can’t keep our Sables d’Azur Rosé ($14.99) on shelf. French sparkling wine is rising because Prosecco is in high demand and driving up prices. Chilean Carmenere still sells, and we’re doing well with Santa Carolina ($10-$11.99).

SND: Any import categories waning?

Franzia: Our Filus Malbec ($12.99) sells, but the category isn’t as hot as it once was. Argentine Chardonnay is a tough sell with all the California options. We pulled our South Africa wines after eight years of trying to build that category.

SND: Where do millennials fit into your import strategy?

Franzia: Over the last five years, we’ve been developing our import portfolio to respond to millennial customers who want more options from all regions. Millennials aren’t as brand-loyal as previous generations, so we’re following our philosophy of over-delivering and hoping they’ll become repeat customers.

SND: Speaking of millennials, how is your beer business doing?

Franzia: Beer is definitely a millennial play for us. Millennials who drink craft beer want to know the story behind the beer and be connected to a sense of place. We signed Strike Brewery from San Jose, a new brand ($6 to $7.99 a 22-ounce bomber) with an innovative marketing team. Sales have far exceeded expectations. We also have our own craft private label, Thirsty Miner ($4.99 to $5.99 for a 22-ounce bomber). We’re not doing any draft beer—that’s a work in progress.

SND: You’re also a player in sake?

Franzia: We’ve been selling sake for 15 years. We have ten brands, and have a trusted import trading partner, PIL. Our business ranges from cooking and entry-level sake to higher-end brands such as Kurosawa and Okunomatsu. Prices range from $10 to $60. We’re strong both on- and off-premise, and we’ve captured non-traditional accounts.

SND: Are you thinking of adding spirits?

Franzia: Getting into spirits would take yet another license in California. We’ll let the big guys fight over the well vodkas!

SND: You’re the fourth generation of the business. How’s the future of Bronco look?

Franzia: It looks bright. Franzia family members are involved in all aspects of our business from human resources to winemaking. We also now have Panther Rock Wine Company, which owns 6 Degrees, a millennial target brand. Panther Rock includes 13 next-generation Bronco siblings and cousins—all ready to try different things and market to millennials.

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