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Port will overtake sherry by 2020 says report

Port is set to overtake sherry as the leading fortified wine in the UK by 2020, according to a major port shipper.

Croft Pink: a different demographic

The prediction can be extrapolated from a reading of Neilsen statistics for fortified wines over the last 16 years, Andrew Hawes, managing director of wine importers Mentzendorff says.

According to Neilsen, in 1996 port sales were around 500,000 cases. This figure has crept steadily upwards, standing at 759,000 cases in 2011, an average increase of more than 50%.

Since reaching a peak of 897,000 cases in 2007, however, volume sales have shown a slight downward trend to 2011’s figure.

Sherry and vermouth, which were selling in excess of 2m cases a year in the mid-1990s, have now declined by more than 50% in some instances, each selling around 1m cases. Vermouth has fallen from 2.03m to 794,000 cases since 1996, sherry from 2.05m to 1.19m cases.

In value terms ‘the trend is even clearer’, Hawes says, with the UK off-trade port market rising by 50% from £50m to £75m, and sherry’s value falling from £124m to £89m over the same period, 1996 to 2011.

This makes port the number two fortified wine in the UK and places it ‘within striking distance of sherry,’ Hawes says.

‘On this basis, if the same long-term trend continues then port is destined to become the leading fortified wine in the UK market by 2020.’

Hawes is also heartened by the fact that port appears to enjoy ‘a much healthier demographic compared to other fortified wines’.

Neilsen statistics show port consumers are younger on average than those of other fortified wines, the 25-44 year consumer age group accounting for 21% of expenditure on port, the 45-64 age group for 48% and the 65+ group for 29%.

Sherry purchasing is weighted towards an older demographic, with the 65+ age group accounting for 55% of sherry expenditure, Hawes says.

Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, which owns Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft, told Decanter.com, ‘This isn’t to say we’re going to go out and target 20-year-olds. Port has to continue to appeal to those older consumers – 35 plus – who can afford aspirational products.’

Bridge cited Fladgate’s sponsorship of a port slot on independent radio station Jazz FM as an example of a move to target that 35+ age group.

He also pointed to the development of Croft Pink, a rosé port, which aims to ‘expand the season, usage, and age profile’ of port drinkers, as well as appealing to women, and ‘has 1% of the total pink port sales worldwide’, appealing particularly to consumers in Brazil, Canada and Denmark.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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