Marketing European Wine: Resources for Small Producers
Dr. Pamela M. Clayton, University of Glasgow – March 20, 2008
The European wine sector is an ancient one and part of Europe's distinct cultural heritage, as well as contributing strongly to the European economy. In February 2007, MEPs backed the idea of protecting the historical and cultural position of European wine production. The average holding per estate is less than 2 hectares (Eurostat Farm Structure Survey 1999-2000 – within the single states this ranges from 6 hectares in France to less than 1 in Italy). In addition, many wine producers are very small estates or family businesses, making wine as a craft, rather than industrial production. Some producers are located in regions with few other economic alternatives, thus the possible loss of wine production may create economic hardship, in addition to landscape deterioration and soil erosion.
Despite the fact the Europe still accounts for the majority of world wine production, consumption and exports of wine currently face stiff competition from 'New World' producers from Australia, South Africa and the Americas. For example, the UK wine market is growing rapidly and is set to become the fifth biggest consumer of wine in the world, with a particular increase in the purchase of higher priced wine. At the same time, France has been overtaken by Australia as the UK's foremost wine supplier and imports from the US and South Africa have greatly increased.
Europe is also the world's biggest importer of wine, even though much production is made into industrial alcohol or vinegar. In June 2006, it was reported that six million hectoliters of French and Italian wine were to be made into industrial alcohol, because the production was greater than the demand.
"Crisis distillation is becoming a depressingly regular feature of our common market organization for wine. While it offers temporary assistance to producers, it does not deal with the core of the problem – that Europe is producing too much wine for which there is no market," said European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel.
At the same time, climate change is increasing the area fit for wine production, which now takes place in northern countries, such as England and Denmark, and is planned to start in southern Sweden. The focus of European policy has therefore shifted from restricting production to improving national and international competitiveness, by means that include modernization of wine production, of which one aspect is marketing.
Marketing can be a major issue for small producers even of very good quality wine. The precise focus of a new European project, 'Marketing European Wine: Resources for Micro Producers', was inspired by the fact that the University of Alicante in Spain, receives a few enquiries every week from wine producers about how to market their product.
Wine in Europe is divided into 'quality wines produced in specific regions' (quality wines psp) and 'table wines'. The people at whom the project is aimed are small-scale producers of quality wines psp and high-quality table wines who have inadequate experience of marketing, and do not know where to obtain advice. The project partners include marketing experts, adult education and training, as well as local development. The core objectives, therefore, are to assist producers by helping them to develop marketing strategies tailored to their needs. First a survey is being made of a sample of producers in less well-known, or upcoming wine areas in Italy (Campania), France (South-West), Germany (Bavaria), the Czech Republic (Bohemia), Slovenia (Primorska), Spain (Alicante) and Romania (where the once vibrant wine industry declined after 1989). The survey is designed to find out the marketing needs and resources (in time, skills, contacts and money, for example) of these producers, so that the project team can design appropriate marketing strategies. It is envisaged that these strategies will be useful for micro producers all over Europe.
The project web site is multilingual and will provide resources that are free to download and use. These resources include:
- A questionnaire to be used as the basis for analyzing marketing needs.
- An analysis of marketing needs based on the survey of micro-producers of wine.
- Examples of good practices in marketing wine from England, Austria and Northern Italy, as well as other parts of Europe and a look at New World competitors.
- A set of marketing tools, dealing with all relevant aspects of marketing, including both innovative and traditional ideas, focused on the needs of selected areas, though transferable to producers in other parts of Europe. The language of these tools is such that the documents can be used by the producers themselves.
- Training guidelines for the use of the marketing tools provided for producers who require such assistance.
- Contact details of the partners.
It is intended that in the long term the product will remain a valuable resource for the European wine industry, through the web site (which will remain free to use), and also through the continuing services of the partners (on a commercial basis).
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