Innovation critical in flooded wine market

In case you have not heard, times are tough for all business sectors, notwithstanding the wine industry.  The familiar landscapes I enjoy on a weekly basis are changing with the increased number of FOR SALE signs standing alongside vineyards.

I have previously written and spoken out in favour of embracing innovation that will advance the wine industry positively.    Innovation calls for a shift in mindset: changing how we currently do business to effect a positive outcome, balanced with financial reward.  Changed mindset and thus innovative ideas is key to sustainable business practice.

With surplus wine flooding the market, wine producers should consider the option of selling unfermented juice concentrate to local and international concentrate plants.  There will always be a high global demand for white grape juice concentrate as it is used in many still and carbonated drinks. In the USA, for example, 70% of all juice consumed is sourced from foreign markets, a clear indication that the demand exists.

There are juice concentrate plants in South Africa that are not operating at full production volumes, so I ask the question:  if there are wine producers, struggling to sell their wine, why not consider selling to processing plants?   I personally know of wine producers who have sold their entire 2012 crop to processing plants.  These are individuals who understand that irrespective of what the vintage serves up, the bulk wine market is all about quantity and it’s in excess.  Off-loading excess crop for processing of  juice concentrate not only guarantees income, but safe-guards the future of wine producer and labour force alike. 

Alternatives to juice concentrate would be developing and marketing innovative RTD (ready to drink) products that offer exciting flavours, exceptional colour and attractive branding that will appeal to a cross-section of consumers.   

Seems like a simple and effective solution to business challenges, but will struggling wine producers be prepared to shift their mind-set?  At a recent meeting  this week, my client and I discussed the harsh realities facing the industry and we were in agreement that change was not always easy.  This is especially true where generations have owned and run their family farms and my client summed it up well: “maar, wat sal Pa se?”

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