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Interview, Part 1: Steve Riboli On What’s Next For Stella Rosa

January 31, 2023

Stella Rosa, the flagship brand from California-based Riboli Family Wines, became the top imported wine label in the U.S. by volume after surging from 1 million cases in 2015 to more than 7.2 million cases in 2021, according to Impact Databank, propelled by fruit-forward wines with accessible taste profiles.Steve Riboli, president and CEO of Riboli Family Wines, called 2022 “a tough year,” coming on the back of rapid growth during the pandemic, and said 2023 volume for Stella Rosa is expected to total just over 6 million cases. That would be about 15% below 2021 levels, but still more than twice the brand’s pre-pandemic volume. Stella Rosa’s non-alcoholic entries and new brandy extension are projected to combine for an additional 200,000 cases. The company is now firmly focused on promoting premiumization within the portfolio, with several new products in the pipeline. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Riboli to learn more.

SND: How are overall conditions for Stella Rosa in the U.S. currently?

Riboli: If we were a five- to seven-year-old startup, I’d say, “Oh, geez, you know, it’s rough seas.” But we’re a hundred-year-old company, we’ve been around the block, and it makes us fight. Last year, I said to our teams, we’re not slowing down and we’re not stopping, and we certainly need to go deeper into the consumer. It hit me like a ton of bricks back in 2021, that the consumer wants premium from Stella Rosa. They want to enjoy the ride upwards.

SND: How do you see the outlook for this year?

Riboli: We’re expecting a breakout in 2023 and 2024. A lot of brands are cutting back on marketing. We’re going all in. We’re heavier in our marketing spend in ’23 than we were in ’22. It’s expensive to talk to the customer, but we’re going to keep that conversation very much alive.

SND: How are you attacking the premiumization opportunity?

Riboli: Last year we introduced some premium stars of ours, such as VS Prosecco and Prosecco Rosé (both $30 a 750-ml). It’s a gorgeous package at an upscale price point. We’ve introduced an imported brandy ($30), and we’ve introduced some new innovation flavors that the consumer is looking for, especially cranberry and blackberry, and an organic item as well.

SND: What’s new within the core Stella Rosa range?

Riboli: The core flavors—Black, Rosso, Red, Peach, Moscato d’Asti, and Berry ($13)—are standing the test of time. This year we’re giving the brand a packaging update, sort of an upscale facelift, which I think will allow this core consumer to always feel that this brand is going in a premium direction. We’ll also have some new items this year. We have a new spicy collection with flavors like Pineapple Chili, Mango Chili, and Lemon-Lime Chili ($13). We’re looking at this millennial consumer that’s into spicy international cuisine. It’s rolling out over the next three months. We’re also partnering with country music star Lainey Wilson to recruit this very interesting consumer of hers, younger and female, that’s excited about our brand. Every article that comes out is about how the industry isn’t touching consumers in their 20s, or they’re passing by wine. I think they’re just looking for something exciting to drink, and Stella Rosa is one of the brands that can connect with them and start their journey in wine.

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