“2012 was a bloody hard year – I have never seen a year like it – and I do not see anything changing that,” he told Drinks International ahead of Bibendum’s annual London tasting.
Saunders said new growth would be unachievable for the sector this year and that building market share would be Bibendum’s strategy going forward.
He said: “There are too many sellers in the market. It will have to consolidate.”
Bibendum’s strategy to “meet the storm” in 2013 will see it “look carefully at costs”, invest in “educating” its sales team and reassess the way it approaches consumers.
Central to its strategy is the ‘Taste test’, which encourages consumers to match their palate to different taste profiles – rather than grapes or regions – of wines.
Speaking about Taste Test, Saunders said: “If we don’t take customers with us we’ll leave them behind.”
On proposed minimum unit pricing Saunders said education, not fiscal policy, was the route to tackling binge drinking.
Bibendum’s current portfolio is unlikely to be immediately affected should minimum pricing come to fruition but Saunders argued that a 45p or 50p unit price would only be the beginning.
“It’s an issue that’s not going away – it’s the PM’s pet project. Once it is in legislation there’s no control thereafter. What’s to say it will not become £1 or £1.50 per unit [in the future].”