03.Lack of labelling
Consumers have a right to know the heritage and background of products they’re being sold.
- Stephen Strachan, Winemakers Federation of Australia
While consumers may baulk at buying no-frills liquor, there’s no easy way for them to know who makes their wine, short of searching online or checking the Australian trademark database.
Charles Sturt University’s associate professor Anthony Saliba is a program leader at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre. He believes supermarketproduced wine ought to be labelled as such.
“When you buy a generic product, you don’t know much about it. Has it been ethically or sustainably produced? It’s impossible to track down if you only know basic information such as the variety and a broad region.”
Stephen Strachan of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia agrees. “Consumers have a right to know the heritage and background of products they’re being sold.” The reason for not labelling private label liquor as such is clear.
“It wouldn’t be popular if it were called ‘Woolworths Select’ or ‘Coles Smart Buy’,” says one wine producer.
“With wine you want it to have a premium feel, it’s not something like sugar. Wine you sit on the table and enjoy with friends. You want it to look premium and have a premium feel and packaging.”
Is it a cheaper alternative?
The lure of a cheap, decent bottle of vino
might appeal, but according to IbisWorld,
the consumer is unlikely to see an
overall benefit economically.
supermarket giants are expected to
continue engaging in price wars, this
will take the form of cutting flagship
products… in an effort to increase store
traffic and boost sales of other products,
rather than across-the-board discounting.
As a result, average selling prices are
expected to increase over the year,
boosting revenue and margins.”
Are the wines sold under private labels
of similar quality to proprietary brands?
Generally, it’s difficult to tell the difference
– even wine connoisseurs may not be able
to pick a generic from a branded product.
Lawrie Stanford, executive director of
Wine Grape Growers Australia, believes
the supermarket home brand wine is of a lower quality, but is being sold at a
“At the end of the day they
access wine cheaply from growers and
processors. At the same time they are
marketed as proprietary labels and achieve
the same premium price on the shelf. So
the tendency over time will be for poorerquality
wine to be sold for the same
price as high-quality labels, leading to an
undermining of the quality proposition.”
Interestingly, a number of our sources
tell us that many of the private label wines
are actually identical, but sold under
different brand names, in different
packaging and at different price points.
“Many are just the same wine
repackaged,” says Paul Rogers, a wine taster
and holder of the Australasian Wine
Masters Award from the International
Wine Academy. “The only way you can
tell is if you’re very astute in wine tasting,
which isn’t an exact science.”
Bill (not his real name) is the
owner of a boutique vineyard in
Margaret River, WA. He refuses to
deal with the supermarkets after
being on the receiving end of some
nasty tactics, and instead sells
directly to independent liquor
“Either you’re with them
or you’re against them,” he says.
Bill’s wine was previously stocked
in the Woolworths-owned Dan
At the time, the buyer
responsible for his account
threatened him with drastic action
if it showed up elsewhere for less.
The buyer told Bill that if he saw the
wine cheaper in a different liquor
store, Dan Murphy’s would “go it”.
“That means they’ll put it in a
$9.99 bin… If you upset them, look
out – you’ll find yourself advertised
in the catalogue for less than your
wholesale price. Then independent
stores ring up and tell you they
don’t want to do business with you
Bill also says the staff at
push private label products
above the brands.
hundreds of them, and the customer
doesn’t know. They don’t have the
chance to understand that this is
a private label brand and not a
mum and dad vineyard that’s
grown the grapes.”