MEDIA RELEASE: WOSA's diversity positioning to be extended

The news comes on the back of rising exports, with South Africa once again reporting a growth in sales volumes after a temporary setback last year, when sales dipped 5%. For the 12 months to September 2007, total wine export volumes were up 9%, she said, with the industry diversifying its exports into new markets and achieving significant success in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and Canada.

“Premium wines are doing very well in the US and several big companies are now tackling the American mass market. Sales to the UK are back on track with record exports levels reached in October. Volumes exported reached 36 million litres. This is 5 million litres up on the previous record, set in May 2007.”

The support for the country’s positioning on foreign markets follows the outcome of a strategic review undertaken on behalf of the organisation to give greater clarity to the parameters of WOSA’s role as a generic marketing body.

Stressing that WOSA’s role was not to sell wine but to maintain a positive reputation for the country as a wine producer, the author of the study praised the support of South Africa’s major producers who had come to the aid of the organisation, although times had been tough for some of them. They had provided bridging finance at a time that the SA Wine Industry Trust was not able to deliver its committed funding to the organisation so it could carry out its job.

The review was facilitated by widely respected wine economist James Herrick of Wineprophet. As part of his research Herrick interviewed top-ranking members of the South African and UK wine industries, including producers, retailers, specialist drinks industry journalists, academics and marketing consultants.

He found that WOSA had succeeded in its primary role of building a positive image for South African wines, and had created a unique and competitive point of difference on global markets. However, he recommended that its core message be developed for a wider audience by focusing on diversity per se.

Birch said: “While the positioning was initially conceived as a way of highlighting the wealth of biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest but richest on the planet, it will now be widened to encompass our country’s cultural, linguistic, historic and geographic diversity. This message is also consistent with South Africa’s tourism proposition on international markets.”

Herrick, who three years ago conducted a study into South Africa’s cost-competitiveness on international wine markets, urged the South African industry to focus on profitable trading. “Unlike the Australian wine industry, which has grown itself at great expense into a state of financial ruin, South Africa has a natural brake on volume expansion by nature of its land. This allows the industry to concentrate on the only thing left that matters from a strategy point of view – the growth of profitable sales.”

He said it was worth remembering that, for most people, “the South African proposition was still simply inexpensive varietal wine in modern packaging, with no particular heritage.”

However, the widely held perception of South Africa as a unique and special place could be maximised to highlight the inherent value in wines originating here, whether connoisseur, premium or mass brands. “Your wines have the great taste of vibrant individuality that comes from the nature of your producing areas. Although a niche player in volume terms you nonetheless can be far more interesting and thus entertaining, not by virtue of manufactured advertising but by proudly selling your wine strengths to the world and telling the stories that go with the wines.”

South Africa should not overlook the fact that it led the world in what he described as “production integrity”, referring to planet-friendly eco-sustainable wine-growing practices.

Birch believes that the industry should exceed the earlier projections of a 10% growth in volumes for the year