When thinking about wine marketing, we often focus on consumer trends and we look at what is new within the wine drinking community. But how about extending our efforts to markets where there is less competition from wine? Markets where wine is still small? How about Africa?
According to Mac Mabindilala, Africa accounts for 16% of the world’s population and 5% of the world’s alcohol consumption. While that doesn’t leave us with many wine drinkers, it does leave us with enormous scope. Urbanisation is happening in Africa, bringing with it Westernisation and opportunity for wine brands. While according to Mabindilala, the market is often still illicit, informal and independent, the opportunity is there – even before you consider modern retail development and global trends like increased female consumption that nowadays extend to Africa.
France is the first country one associates with wine and therefore wine culture is not that foreign in what used to be “French West Africa” – a federation of eight French colonial territories that existed from 1895 to 1960: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Côte d’Ivoire, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger. But if you want to target areas with less competition, perhaps East Africa is where your mind should be at.
We had the wonderful privilege of visiting Tanzania last year. The famous Serengeti migration exceeded our highest expectations. Africa is a wonderful place to travel to when you want to steer away from cities and crowded public places- one of the Covid-induced travel trends. I therefore envisage travel to Africa to grow substantially in years to come. But what does the charm of travelling Africa have to do with finding a market for your wine?
Earlier this week the annual Wine Tourism Conference addressed a variety of trends, challenges and opportunity within wine tourism. While much of the focus was on experience, the offering and the customer, I find the inclusion of the topic of how to grow wine sales in Sub-Saharan Africa quite interesting. It is an important topic, but how is it wine tourism related? But then the penny dropped.
Why did we developed a tourism industry around wine? On the one hand to generate additional income as we all know that wine’s profitability is a challenge. As a result we now offer job opportunities and local communities have become dependent on the increased employment on wine farms. But there was always another reason for the experience around wine. It was to create brand awareness and a positive association or connotation with your wine. The idea was that guests who had a wonderful time on your farm, would recognise your brand when confronted with the large choice in supermarkets. Whether the guest is from Johannesburg, Berlin or Hong Kong, we want them to know a bit more about our country, our wines and then specifically your own brand in order to buy your wine when they are back home.
With that in mind, wine tourism became a very important part of our marketing and sales structure when we started selling wine in the Far East. At the time, South Africa and especially our wines, were quite unfamiliar to the average Chinese. We realised that we had to introduce our Chinese sales team to South Africa in order for them to be able to sell our wines successfully. A large-scale incentive programme was introduced that rewarded reps who hit their targets with a trip to the Cape Winelands. This was one of the most successful initiatives we could’ve come up with. Not only did the reps chase their targets to win the trip, but after their Cape experience, they managed to do a much better job at selling South Africa and our wines.
Although French and Australian wine might have had a strong presence in China, when we started out with our efforts, the wine lifestyle was a foreign concept. Other than the opportunity of its large population and strong gifting culture, China was not the obvious market for wine. It is not easy to sell to a market that is not familiar with your product. It is also difficult to understand the way non-Western markets operate. But with less wine competition, an open mind and a strong tourism component, we managed to do very well in China.
Perhaps that is also the answer to success in Africa. While tourism in Africa creates a demand for wine in hotels and restaurants, the other opportunity is to encourage wine consumption among the locals. How much do they know about South Africa and our wines? Is our world-class wine tourism industry perhaps unexploited as a tool to sell wine when it comes to our efforts in Africa? How much are we doing to invite our neighbours to our wine estates?