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Interview, Part 2: Rick Tigner, Jackson Family Wines

January 8, 2019

In the second part of our interview with Jackson Family CEO Rick Tigner, we cover the U.S. distribution scene, Jackson Family’s direct-to-consumer sales, and sales activity in the on-premise and overseas.

SND: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the California wine business since you came aboard in the early 1990s?

Tigner: There’s been a dramatic shift in the last 20 years—both in the competitive landscape and in how we do business. The speed of information and the way wine education is absorbed by consumers has changed. It’s still all about the consumer, but the path to purchase is different. First, the sheer number of wineries in the marketplace continues to grow. Little-known wine regions are popping up and producing new wines, and imports are flooding the market. In the 1990s, you could walk into a California wine store and recognize 80% of the labels. Now it’s 20%. Distributor consolidation is, of course, another big factor. Those are just a few of the issues we’re dealing with every day as we look at our current market strategy.

SND: How do you see distributor consolidation impacting the dynamics of the market?

Tigner: I’m very proud of the relationships we’ve built with our distributors. Those partnerships have had a major impact on individual winery growth and brand-building. Jess Jackson was a visionary when he had the idea of establishing his own distribution networks. Today our California-based distribution arms, Regal and Royal, give us an edge. I’d say the same about the focused teams we’ve been able to embed with some of our biggest distribution partners.

SND: How is the on-premise side performing for Jackson Family, relative to the off-premise? Which brands lead the way in the on-premise?

Tigner: On-premise continues to be great for consumer trial. We saw significant growth in the on-premise channel last year, despite increased competition in the category. That was due to a handful of our estate wineries—Cambria, Matanzas Creek, Stonestreet, Freemark Abbey, and Penner-Ash—really hitting that mark with consumers. Of course, ultimately, we want to be wherever the consumer is buying and drinking wine, whether on- or off-premise.

SND: How do you feel about the role of direct-to-consumer? How important is it to Jackson Family Wines?

Tigner: Direct-to-consumer is a growing piece of our business. It’s incredibly important not just for the profit it delivers, but also in helping to build connections and turn consumers into our brand ambassadors. In the past few years, we’ve invested heavily in the direct-to-consumer experience by opening three major destinations: Freemark Abbey, Lokoya, and the La Crema Estate at Saralee’s. Traffic has been healthy, and we’re making a big impression with our visitors.

SND: How focused is Jackson Family Wines on growing its international business?

Tigner: Canada is our strongest export market, but we see potential in Asia, particularly in China, Japan, and South Korea. We’re also looking at how we can grow distribution of our international properties in those countries—more Yangarra sold in Australia, for example, or more Tenuta di Arceno in Italy. And we’re getting smarter about our distribution networks. Our Verité and Cardinale wines, for example, are now being sold through the négociant system.—David Fleming

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