KWV is one of the leading wine and spirits producers in South Africa, with its head office located in Paarl, in the Western Cape region, one of the top wine producing regions of the country. KWV is known internationally for brands such as Roodeberg, KWV wines, Laborie, Golden Kaan, Cathedral Cellar, Café Culture, Wild Africa Cream and the KWV 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 Year Old brandies. KWV is also a founding member of the Industry Association for the Responsible Use of Alcohol (ARA).
On the third and final day of Vinexpo 2012, I spoke to Isobel Armstrong, General Manager for KWV for the Asia Pacific region. We talked about KWV and the brands which it represents – in particular, the Pinotage-based, coffee-nuance Café Culture wine and its new sparkling equivalent, the Choc Mousse. We discussed South African wines and their role in the Asian markets as well as the potential for expansion.
Our interview follows:
I’m Isobel Armstrong. I’m the General Manager for KWV for the Asia Pacific region. We represent very many brands – I don’t know if you want to have a look around – we’ve got brands, really, that cover all spectrums from entry level to more premium wines. And they’re all our own brands. We don’t represent anybody else’s brands, we are the brand owners at this point.
And how have South African wines been doing in the Asian market so far?
I think we woke up a little bit slowly compared to the rest of the world, and compared to the French, so for South African wine, Asia probably is… somewhere between 7 and 10% of our portfolio comes from the Asia Pacific market. We’re very strong still, I think, in Africa and Europe and also an element in the Americas, but it’s probably quite similar in America to what it is in Asia. Our biggest market is, by far, Europe.
And are you interested in expanding in Asia?
Absolutely, Wines of South Africa has actually dedicated all of its funds for Asia Pacific to China at the moment, so we have definitely identified the potential for Wines of South Africa in China.
And what is this Café Culture wine that I’ve been hearing all about?
It’s a concept brand more than a heritage brand, which is what a lot of the rest of our portfolio is about. It’s a Pinotage base, and South Africa is very well known for the uniqueness of its Pinotage wines. This, more specifically, is a coffee – it’s not flavoured, of course, at all – but there is a very strong coffee nuance in the Pinotage that you pick up in the Café Culture. And then the Choc Mousse is a sparkling equivalent of the Café Culture.
And how do you think the labeling, does that make it more popular in the Asian markets?
We haven’t done any form of official market research yet on the brand, but I’ve got a colleague who will be based in Hong Kong, looking after the Asian market who has worked in this field for, and in Singapore, she’s worked in Asia for the last 15 years and she believes that, you know, in this specific segment of the market there is definitely a potential for it. Also, just about the look as well. Also, there’s a strong coffee culture that’s starting to emerge in China and…
So it fits right in?
It fits right into that niche.
And do you have anything general to say about Vinexpo 2012. Any hopes?
It’s been wonderful for us. I mean we’ve been so busy. People have been queuing up there to talk to us, which is wonderful.
Yeah, I’ve seen you’re very busy.
It’s a blessing for us. It shows a lot of potential and it’s up to us now to capitalize on the interest that we’ve seen. But the show has been very good to us. Our show organizer, Sharon, was involved in all the shows in Europe, in the Americas, and she says that she’s hardly ever seen a show with the level of interest that we’ve experienced here.
Well thank you so much and I hope you have a great time at Vinexpo…