The Great BIG Wine Survey (GBWS) began as a lockdown project for the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show team. “It was a way in which we could try and assist our wine producing/selling colleagues when they really needed us,” says Andrew Douglas, owner of TOPS at SPAR Wine Show. “It was also designed to keep the conversation around wine going and for our business to stay relevant during a time when mass participation bans prevented us from staging major consumer wine events – the foundation upon which we’d built our activities.”
After careful planning and a digital campaign that spanned three months, Andrew and his team were rewarded with nearly 21 000 completed surveys. “We quickly realised we needed specialist expertise to extract the most value from the findings, so to this end we sourced and secured collaborative partnerships with KLA, a leading independent SA consumer insights research business, and Peter McAtamney, founder/principle of Wine Business Solutions (WBS) – a renowned global wine business intelligence consultancy.”
Something for everyone
The survey was designed to uncover consumer data not currently available to the broader industry, to benchmark and track trends, note shifts in behaviour, and measure progress. “We were not looking to prove or disapprove any popular hypotheses, but rather uncover some hidden nuggets that would help wine producers make some informed decisions to chart the way forward in such tumultuous times,” says Andrew.
The survey revealed a wide array of opportunities available to African wine producers and supply chain partners. Some unmet needs among consumers were also identified – from wine styles, packaging formats and usage occasions through to education and communication. Peter compared the findings with international studies and says South Africa seems to be tracking the global trends quite well, based on similar studies he’s done in other markets. In fact, South African consumer preferences fit more closely with global trends than they do with current production, signalling great scope for growth.
“There’s a huge potential to benefit from mining its results,” says Andrew. “Wine producers, grape farmers, wine marketers, liquor retailers, tourism routes, cultivar associations and wine industry organisations should all be able to find something of value in the results.”
(Wine)land of opportunity
Although the major consumer groups typically have quite different drivers, Andrew says the way in which the ‘relaxing and reward at the end of a hard day’ sentiment cut across all consumer groups during Covid was notable. “From an advertising and marketing perspective, this means that it’s possible to position wine in a way that will appeal to all potential drinkers.”
The research team suspect 2020 may have changed certain preferences for good, and it’s had a premiumising effect. “As the market opens up again and businesses recover, because consumers have been spending more on better wine to drink at home (rather than spending that money on lesser wines when eating out), they will continue to drink better wine when better times return,” Andrew says. “In this way, drinking less and better is a global trend that has been accelerated under Covid.”
With the 2020 vintage surplus, many producers face the threat of commodification and brand devaluation post Covid, but Andrew and his team believes the market above R200 a bottle deserves a closer look. “We believe this will be the fastest growing segment for more premium producers coming out of Covid if patterns in other markets are repeated here.”
One of the more surprising findings was just how engaged South African consumers are with wine, even within lower income groups. “The cost of wine is more of a barrier to lower income groups than reluctance based upon wine being seen as elitist, as it is in other markets such as the US,” Andrew says. “South Africa already has the second least expensive wine of any of the 137 producer countries, so price can’t be the answer. As we all recover and the middle class starts to expand again, the prospects for wine are promising given how positive the audience is towards the category across the board.”
Thanks to support from Hollard, which signed up as presenting partner, the GBWS will become an annual event providing actionable insights and practical recommendations through its partnerships with KLA and WBS. “Once we can begin benchmarking the GBWS year on year we will really start to map some trends and unlock value,” says Andrew. The continuity also presents new opportunities to add even more value. “We’d like to include a brand section in the 2021 GBWS to measure awareness and perceptions among local wine brands.”
The team now dreams of finding affordable ways to research international markets from a South African wine perspective, to unlock more value for SA producers overseas. “But we’ll take it one step at a time for now.”
The survey has rightfully been garnering much attention from an industry thirsty for actionable, market-driven information in the wake of the pandemic. “We’ve been overwhelmed with requests from a variety of stakeholders to commission deep dives on the GBWS dataset,” Andrew says. The team is eager to support the industry’s requirements for further study. “We are also on the hunt for other research challenges in the local wine industry where consumer data intelligence is scarce. This could be working more closely with industry bodies, wine tourism routes or some of our local cultivar associations.”
Interested parties can get in touch with Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.