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Interview, Part 2: Jeff Dubiel, CMO, The Wine Group

April 2, 2019

In the second part of our interview with Jeff Dubiel, The Wine Group’s CMO discusses premiumization within the portfolio, recent acquisitions, and the agency brands that are part of the mix.

SND: The Wine Group has bolstered its portfolio with a number of mid-range and premium brands over the last few years. How’s that effort going?

Dubiel: We’ve been making strides in the premium and super-premium segments. The $8-$15 area has been a big focus. We’re now the No.-4 wine producer at that price point, which is progress for our company. The strategy to get there has been threefold. One piece is innovation, and aggressively building newer brands. Chloe and Ava Grace are both in that mold. The second focus has been acquisitions. We acquired 7 Deadly Zins last year, and Benziger before that. We also launched a brand from Benziger in the on-premise and fine wine retail last year called Imagery. The third part is the agency side, and McManis and Trapiche fall into that.

SND: Where do you see particular opportunity among those wines?

Dubiel: Starting with Chloe, we’re five years in, and it’s a top-20 super-premium brand. We continue to see Chloe as a big opportunity moving forward. It’s had double-digit growth both on- and off-premise every year since 2014. The Pinot Grigio has been very successful, as has the Rosé. This past year we launched both a Merlot and Cabernet. We’ll continue to lean into that brand. Imagery was founded 30 years ago by Joe Benziger as a DTC business in Sonoma focused on unusual varietals. We saw huge opportunity from a DTC standpoint, but we also think it’s very interesting for the retail market. It did very well starting out in the on-premise and fine wine retail segments last year, and this year we’ll roll it out nationally.

SND: What’s the early word on the 7 Deadly and Beso del Sol acquisitions?

Dubiel: As we take a look at our portfolio, Zinfandel is definitely an opportunity. 7 Deadly has a strong following in the Zinfandel category, and it still has a lot of runway left. We love the brand and the packaging. We took on Beso del Sol about seven months ago in the sangria category. We’re going after younger consumers and feel there’s plenty of upside there.

SND: How is the agency business developing?

Dubiel: Trapiche and McManis are playing a nice role in our portfolio. We’re focused on building those brands. We need to make sure we realize their potential without getting too far ahead of our skis. But if there are other opportunities that come along and make sense for us we’ll take a look at them.

SND: What’s the update on Cupcake?

Dubiel: Cupcake continues to do great. We launched a rosé 18 months ago, and added Cupcake Butterkissed in 2018, which has done super well. Sparkling Rosé came out as well and is already among the top 10 brands in that category. We also tested Cupcake cans last year, and they’re now rolling out nationally in Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc. We see consumers latching onto the canned wine idea. We think it’s a big one.—Daniel Marsteller

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