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Interview, Part Two: Vintage Point’s David Biggar

December 5, 2014

In this second part of our interview with Vintage Point partner David Biggar, the veteran wine industry executive talks innovation, the retail landscape and long-term aspirations for the portfolio.

SND: Over the past few years, Vintage Point launched a bevy of labels in the $10-$20 range. Which have gained traction?

Biggar: If You See Kay (from Italy) has been growing at over 20% for three straight years. It relates to a wider demographic than we originally thought it would. We expected to attract younger Millennials, and we have, but the brand is almost more successful with older Baby Boomers. We’re also seeing some traction for Makara, from New Zealand, although the New Zealand category is very branded, so the brand leaders are still probably outgrowing the newcomers. On the other hand, Mountain Door (from Argentina) is doing quite well, in part because newer brands in that category are taking share from traditional Argentine brands. We also have Lo Nuevo from Spain. We like the Spain category. There are a lot of great values there, although it’s becoming very competitive.

SND: In terms of innovation, are there any gaps you’re looking to fill? Any new offerings on the horizon?

Biggar: We’re always looking at new brands, but we’re very selective. One of our new on-premise-only initiatives is a Pinot Noir that will be under $10 a glass, and very high quality. We’re also seeing a trend in retail, (with retailers) trying to find wines that their direct competitor doesn’t carry, and which could be exclusive to them, including private label. We believe it’s around 15% of everybody’s business in retail right now, and it could double in five years. Most private label activity has been below $10, with some of the big wine companies participating. We’re more interested in the $15-$30 range, with much of it under $20. The private label business is much more stable when you have a partner with estate vineyards, because you can create a wine style that’s not dependent on the fluctuating bulk wine market. We recently provided a wine like that for Safeway, which will launch in January.

SND: Where do you see Vintage Point’s volume by the end of this year?

Biggar: We plan to exceed 700,000 cases, and I think we’ll continue to see double-digit growth in next year, to 775,000-800,000 cases. We have our eyes set on a million cases.

SND: What challenges do you see ahead for the wine market?

Biggar: In 2012 and 2013, and for some areas in 2014, there was a big (domestic) harvest, and it was also an early harvest. We’ve had three strong vintages in a row, while some European markets are experiencing their worst three vintages in a row, so there could be small shift toward domestic offerings. Price-wise, I don’t see mass discounting going on. Overall, there’s long-term strength, especially at the higher price points, the $15-$20 and $25-$30 ranges. I think the biggest challenge ahead is brand proliferation and the continued consolidation at the distributor and trade level. Companies like us need to band together and create an alliance in order to get time and attention from distributors. The distributors have a lot on their plate, and it’s hard for them to be everything to everyone.

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