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IMPACT Seminar Panel: Industry Leaders Weigh In On Key Topics

March 29, 2013

Last week’s 37th annual Impact Marketing Seminar included a panel discussion, entitled “Building Brands in a Changing Market,” which addressed various topics and issues facing the drinks industry today. The panel consisted of representatives from all three tiers: Marc Goodrich, COO, Banfi Vintners; Charles Bailes III, chairman and CEO, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits; Helen Mackey, director of beverage strategy, Ruth’s Hospitality Group; Wayne Chaplin, president and COO, Southern Wine & Spirits; and Mike Keyes, president, North American Region, Brown-Forman. Impact and Shanken News Daily executive editor David Fleming moderated the panel.

Discussions began with the progress at the high end, where panelists seemed to agree that they’re seeing a positive growth trend in the premium and super-premium tiers, and that many consumers are moving back up in price. “But there is still significant discounting going on with premium and super-premium brands,” Bailes added. “And nobody knows better than the people in this room that doing that long-term can be dangerous, because they turn into value brands.”

One of the most important trends in the industry today is innovation and the launching of new products, which are creating most of the opportunities for growth. “Innovation is the lifeblood of the industry, and we have to keep rolling these things out,” Chaplin said. “But it’s not just about the launch—it’s about the second year and the third year. You have to have a long-term investment behind these brands with a lot of support so that the innovations of today will be the great brands of tomorrow.”

Keyes added that Brown-Forman will remain focused on new product releases, but that the company is still figuring out the “life after launch,” and the best ways to introduce a brand to make it sustainable. Goodrich noted that one of Banfi’s recent innovations is wine in kegs, meant to enhance the on-premise experience. Ruth’s Chris, meanwhile, is looking for innovative brands, but mainly those with which consumers may already have emotional connections, according to Mackey—they launched Knob Creek’s rye extension straight into their drinks menu when it was released.

Adapting to appeal to new demographic groups is nothing new to the drinks industry, and the rising multicultural market is presenting many opportunities for the future. “It’s no longer about how you use your incremental funds to target multicultural consumers,” Keyes said. “Now it’s the fundamental principle for growth. This is the emerging market within the U.S.—if you miss this boat, you’re going to have a really hard time growing your business.”


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