Speaking to Drinks International at the Consejo Regulador in Jerez, César Saldaña said there is a sense among all the producers that there is a cycle of change in sherry and a new, evolving consumer base will change the drink in value rather than volume terms.
Last year total sherry volumes declined by 2% in volume and grew 3% in value. Saldaña said: “We will not be as big anymore – sherry volumes are a third of the size they were in the 1980s. We are growing in the quality segment and the new cycle is all about differentiation.
“We firmly believe we will grow in a different scale. We will be a niche product and quality will keep the category growing. It is growing enough for us to increase value by 3% while losing volume.”
Instead of simplifying the sherry message the director general said they are making it more complicated. “But we are appealing to a specific segment of the market,” he added.
Saldaña identified three sherry consumers that vary depending on market but are essentially the same – ‘traditional’, ‘locational’ and ‘wine drinker’.
“The traditional consumer is well into their 60s. In the UK this is primarily female. They are not a great wine drinker and are price sensitive. They think of sherry as a drink, rather than a wine and they are brand loyal.
“This is the basis of our consumer and we love them but they are not the future and while brands are communicating with them, it is not our role [at the Consejo] to communicate with them.”
The locational consumer, according to Saldaña, will not go for sherry but they will have it just when they find it. The third consumer, the wine drinker, is the most interesting to the Consejo.
“They are people who are discovering sherry as a very peculiar but very interesting wine. This is who we will target and this is the future for us,” he adds.
“Each of these segments is evolving differently. The first one is declining quite rapidly. The second is relatively stable and the third is clearly growing. They value the product and they are ready to pay more for quality wines. We are not talking about the sherry geeks, we are talking about people who have incorporated sherry into their portfolios. This is the target that we are clearly looking at.
“If there is a future for the category then it needs to be about quality.”