Dez 26

The global downturn and Italy

Tag: Allgemeines,Ländersigi.hiss @ 21:21

by Kerin O’Keefe – The slowing global economy, coupled with the continued weakness of the US dollar and a flat domestic market, are unsurprisingly, worrying Italy’s wine producers. But two of the country’s top exporters say that adapting to new life style trends and building brand loyalty are helping them keep market share, even as consumers world-wide tighten their belts.

„In 2008, both in Italy and abroad, we’ve seen a significant shift from on -premise to off-premise sales as consumers forgo restaurants and wine bars, preferring to dine and entertain at home,“ says Alberto Lusini, marketing manager for Mezzacorona. The Trentino firm produces 40m bottles annually and exports 70% of total production around the world with principal markets being Italy, the US and northern Europe. „People are not consuming less, just differently. And instead of experimenting with new names and varieties, they are now staying with brands that offer consistent quality at reasonable prices.“ He says that by focusing almost exclusively on the off-trade, they’ve seen sales grow in Italy, the US and Germany, adding that aggressive in-store promotions in the US have helped grow the brand.

Andrea Cecchi, of the Cecchi family firm known for its Chianti and Chianti Classicos, has seen a similar shift in consumer attitudes. „Brand loyalty is now crucial, especially in key markets such as the US and Germany, where sales have remained stable,“ says Cecchi. The Tuscan producer exports 60% of its annual production of over 7m bottles and core markets include the US, Germany, the UK, Holland and Canada. Cecchi has recently increased an already intense schedule of in-depth presentations to their distributors in these top markets.

The company’s recent decision to reduce their range of wines has also been pivotal. „Eliminating our IGT cru selections allows us to concentrate more on the quality of our DOCG and DOC wines and simplifies our offerings for consumers,“ declares Cecchi. He adds that having fewer but higher quality products has contributed to their stable sales in most markets, as has redesigning labels, making Cecchi’s wines easier to identify.

However, according to many industry experts, times are increasingly difficult for Italian wine. In Italy, new stringent policies on drinking and driving are keeping Italians at home and they are spending less thanks to the difficult economy. Consumers in many international markets are also making spending decisions based on their tighter budgets. „Because the cost of production has gone up, from the price of grapes to packaging, we’ve been forced to marginally increase prices to cover our higher expenses. Although this had basically no effect in the US and Germany where consumers are brand loyal, we’ve lost significant market share in the UK where consumers are more price sensitive,“ reports Cecchi. Kerin O’Keefe

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