€6.5m global push for natural cork

The Portuguese Cork Association, APCOR, has launched its biggest and most expensive promotional campaign ever.

The group, which represents the majority of the Portuguese cork industry, has put forward €6.5 million (US$5.8m) for a campaign which will target the wine trade, and more importantly consumers, with the aim of reassuring them that natural cork remains the best closure for wine.

It is the group’s first ever global promotion for natural cork and will be run from the UK by worldwide agency McCann-Erickson, whose clients include Microsoft and Southcorp wines.

APCOR’s Francisco Evangelista says the campaign, which begins in the new year, is on a different scale to anything the company has done in the past. He believes the crucial message to put across is the industry’s efforts for cork improvement.

‘We are constantly researching natural cork and looking to raise the standards of our product,’ he says. ‘The idea of this campaign is to improve the Portuguese cork industry’s communication with the rest of the world.’

As well as concentrating on UK consumers, the company will also focus on Australia and the US, where an increasing number of wine producers are replacing traditional stoppers with synthetic closures. Evangelista admits that growing competition from the thriving synthetic cork market is also ‘a good reason’ for launching the multi-million-euro campaign.

Synthetic cork manufacturers do not seem concerned by the move. A spokeswoman for US synthetic closure giant Supremecorq, says, ‘There is room for both methods to co-exist in the closure world.’

According to Andre Chapman, who represents Australian cork manufacturer ASA, the Portuguese cork industry has been taking the wine industry for granted for too long. ‘There has been a lack of quality control in recent years, and natural cork being hit very hard worldwide. This is a welcome move though, demand for wine is growing and natural cork can bounce back.’

Amy Rudgard of McCann-Erickson’s sister company Weber Shandwick, believes APCOR need to clarify any confusion surrounding natural cork. ‘There is a lack of understanding among consumers, and APCOR needs to reach people on an international level – it’s the wine drinking markets that matter,’ she says.

As yet, McCann-Erickson has not confirmed any details of its campaign strategy. The company will decide how to spend the money in January 2002.

Written by Tom Chippendale13 December 2001