Marketing Port to Younger Consumers

This month’s Question for the Port Trade came from Melanie R., from Duvall, Washington, who is FTLOP’s first woman participant to ask a question of the trade and therefore, I’m pleased that we have a number of women respondents this month:

Q: What, if anything, is being done to market Port to younger consumers, (i.e., those in their 20's and 30's) and do you see this as a priority?  

From Rupert Symington, Joint Managing Director, Symington Family Estates:

Every marketing executive’s dream is to attract a younger consumer in the hopes that they will then have a loyal customer for the next forty or fifty years.  However in the case of any fine wine (and not just Port), we have to be realistic about the spending power of the young consumer and what his or her priorities are.  Harking back to one’s own wine purchases in one’s twenties and thirties, affordability of wine was key to the purchasing decision. Only when one had climbed up the career ladder and paid off some of the tuition fees or the mortgage could one even begin to afford to buy the odd ‘better bottle’.  And let’s be realistic about the minimum price of a decent bottle of Port, which is double the price of the cheapest everyday bottle of red.   And within this fine wine price bracket, Port is a always going to be a niche category, something that the wine consumer normally reaches through experimentation and development of personal tastes, and being a sweet wine, it is never going to be for everyone, young nor old, nor for most people a wine for everyday.

So this brings us to what Port is doing to attract younger consumers.  It is doing exactly what any other fine wine category would do, when lowering the price to make it more affordable is sadly not an option, and consumer advertising is out of reach of the budget.  We are attending food and wine shows and other wine-related consumer events all over the world so young (and older!) people can try our wines.  We are placing Port in hip restaurants and pairing it with desserts to generate trial.  We are constantly reviewing our packaging to make our more widely distributed Ports such as Six Grapes and Otima as appealing as possible on the shelf and the labels easy to understand.

We are constantly reviewing our POS materials and our website messaging to explain to a relative newcomer to wine just how delicious Port can be, rather than making them wade through pages of the usual boring information about grape varietals and weather conditions.  We are constantly communicating the excellence and rarity of our Vintage Ports, so that even if most consumers cannot afford them, they can at least aspire to them.

In summary, we are mostly concerned about persuading the vast universe of wine drinkers of all ages to take that additional step and add sweet, fortified red wines to their consumption repertoire.   We are defining Port as the wine for relaxation (as champagne is for celebration).  Contrary to popular wisdom, we do not see the current Port consumer as necessarily old and ‘dying off’.   In fact in North America quality Port drinking only became more mainstream within the last twenty years, in line with the growth in fine wine consumption generally, and those most of these newer consumers have a long and healthy life ahead of them.  Without in any way ignoring the importance of the younger consumer, what has been the case for ever and a day is that Port drinkers are generally fine wine drinkers, and fine wine drinkers are generally more affluent, and more affluent people are generally a bit older…

From Dirk Niepoort, Proprietor, Niepoort Vinhos S.A.:

Unfortunately, I think that not much is being done to market Port to younger consumers.  And some of the things that are being done don’t seem to be the right things …

Niepoort is doing a few things.  The most interesting is the release of a book (comic) from Regina Pessoa on ruby and tawny.  We simplified the world of Porto into two categories (there is of course also the white Port): the dark (ruby) and the bright (tawny).  We created the twins; ruby DUM & tawny DEE.  Its art, it’s funny and it explains the world of Port.  If you want, we would be most happy to send you a copy

Ana Rato, Marketing Manager, A. Ramos Pinto, Vinhos S.A.

Slowly as Port itself ages in the cellars, the Port wine industry in general, is taking some measures to become closer to young consumers.  I think all of us have them as a priority; otherwise we wouldn’t have any future would we?

It might not be the strongest of actions like big advertising campaigns – but the Port wine industry, unfortunately, does not have that kind of resources at hand.  For example: instead, what we do is tastings, trying to educate people and slowly, weaving a net of knowledge around Port, all over the world.  We also have been encouraging people to drink chilled Tawnies; White Port which is still largely unknown by the majority of consumers -- is now being offered more often and in some new creative ways like in simple Port Tonics or in trendy cocktails.

And of course, the gastronomy side of Port is also being addressed in a very positive way in the creation of new pairings by top chefs.  Some major changes are also taking place in the packaging realm.  Nowadays, anyone can find not only Tawny or Reserve Port, but even LBV’s in stylish and transparent glass bottles which provides the consumer with a better, trendier and sexier idea of what they will be tasting.

Last but not least, the increase in use of 500 ml bottles is a clear invitation to a safer trial. They’re not as expensive as a 75 ml bottle, so, the downside risk is less.  Of course, more still has to be done.

Maybe, my examples look short on results, or are too slow, but there’s a positive side to this from my experience.  Every time I have opened a bottle and explained the specifics of the Port to a young audience, I’ve never once had a bad opinion.  In fact, most of the time, young people are quite astonished with how pleasant Port is.  The bottom line: we just have to open lots and lots of bottles and share it with every one of you!

Sandra Marques, North America Export Manager, Sogevinus Fine Wines SA

I raise my glass of Port to Melanie, the first woman participating on your “A QUESTION FOR THE PORT TRADE” section.

Port Wine is all about heritage and tradition.  This is only possible when the culture, the habits of drinking Port wines passes from generation to generation.  Having said this, of course it is one of our priorities is introduce Porto to younger consumers for consumption.  Consumers from a young generation drink alcoholic beverages that are being strongly marketed as trendy, funky, modern and they are driven by publicity and marketing. Therefore the highest consumption is for Beer, Vodka, Whisky, cocktails with rum, etc…

How can we introduce them to Port? By launching something that would be appealing for them, something new, fresh, easy, modern and trendy like the “Portonic” made with White Port, a splash of Tonic Water, strain it into a Martini glass, garnish with a lemon slice and some fresh mint leaves and you are all set to go!  Or more recently, the new Porto Rose which is already available in the USA with the oldest Port Brand – Kopke (dated 1638) – a great example of how a traditional brand makes the loop into the modern days for a younger generation.

But also the best way to market Ports regardless of the age of the consumer is to organize and promote tastings, tastings, tastings and a little more of…. tasting at stores, restaurants, wine bars, etc.  From my point of view, being a ‘teenager’ of 30 years old, it is impossible not to fall in love with Ports -White, Vintage, LBV, Aged Tawny, Colheitas. The key is to get them to try it, the rest will naturally follow.

From Claudia Quevedo, Wine & Portmaker, Porto Quevedo:

Port Wine is not the easiest beverage to enjoy for young people. It needs time, even years, to understand Port Wine and to really appreciate it. That is what makes Port a drink more likely to attract older people. However, the young consumer of nowadays will be the mature and experienced consumer of later. And it is better to introduce people to Port sooner rather than later.

For many years the trade has been marketing Port without much creativity nor marketing appeal. But in the last decade this has started to change. The shippers care more about labeling and packaging, the blends have also been adjusted to be easier to drink by young people. Also the IVDP allowed the creation of a new style of Port, the Rose Port. This shows that something is being done to make Port appealing to young consumers.  Currently, social media networks have an important role in all of this and there’s already a considerable number of Port producers with some presence in the social networks. And this is definitively a priority for those who want to grow in this business.

From Adrian Bridge, CEO, The Fladgate Partnership:

This is a good question.

We have continued to thrive as a family company for over 300 years so this suggests that we have, over time, embraced the new generations of consumers.  In reality of course the process of introducing new consumers to Port is ongoing work and we tend not to be specific in selecting target age groups per se.  The spirits industry tends to 'target' groups of consumers and uses heavy advertising spend.  We tend to use tasting events to show the range of styles of Port and at such events the age group that attends is often random.

Of course it is very important that we do reach new consumers just as it is important that we develop new geographic markets.  The Ports from The Fladgate Partnership are luxury products and do require people to have disposable income.  This can sometimes be a limiting factor in some age ranges and in some markets.  However, one of the beauties of Port is that most people can normally find a style that fits their tastes and pocket book.

We have developed a range of Ports that have often brought new consumers to the category. I refer to our Taylor's Chip Dry that was launched in 1934 and Taylor's Late Bottled Vintage launched in 1970.  This was a new style then and its success and wide adoption by the rest of the Port shippers shows the importance of innovation.  More recently we pioneered Croft Pink Port which is again a new style and one that is now being widely copied by the industry.  I recall that when I joined the Port industry it was a widely held opinion that all Ports had been invented yet I was able to drive innovation with this new Rosé Port category.  And yes, it does appeal to many young consumers because it is less formal and more accessible.  Some Vintage Port consumers have literally turned their noses up at it but they forget that people must start their Port journey somewhere and Croft Pink is one place to start.

We have invested heavily in our vineyards, Port making, packaging and our brands.  The new generation of consumers is, perhaps, more brand conscious than the last and so this latter point is very important.  Having a great quality Ports, well packaged and presented will attract new consumers.  Here industry competitions plays a role as well and I believe that as an industry, in some markets, Port has grown in stature, perhaps in direct contrast to other drinks categories.  However, we cannot be complacent nor can we ignore some of the price trends at the bottom end of the market.

I believe that we are finding new ways and styles of Port to reach new consumers and ensure the long term sustainability of our Ports.

From Sophia Bergqvist, Proprietor, Quinta de la Rosa:

There is plenty going on to attract younger port drinkers from developing and marketing White Port and tonic (we are having great success with this in Italy!) to the launch of Pink Port.  New bottle shapes are also an attempt to attract a new audience such as Warre’s Otima and our new bottles.

Any other ideas are always welcome!

A Question for the Port Trade appears in every other FTLOP newsletter, sharing this space with Port Personalities: In Focus.  I hope you will email me with pertinent questions that you would like to have answered by the Port Trade, as I prefer interactivity and would like to include YOUR questions too.  You can also suggest topics in the FTLOP Forum.

By | 2016-11-18T10:24:13+00:00 April 29th, 2010|Categories: Questions for the Trade|0 Comments

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