MBL is bringing in a new Italian wine range as part of an overhaul of its alcoholic drinks portfolio. Other initiatives include more premium ciders and local ales and a Fine Wine collection for selected stores, with wines from New Zealand set for launch soon. The Italian range, which follows a revamp of New World wines at the start of the year and a new French collection, includes Soave, Merlot, Frascati, Valpolicella, Chianti, Lambrusco and Pinot Grigio. "They are entry level wines," said wine buyer Christine Sands. "If they are successful, we would consider moving up." The bottles are not branded overtly, with the Budgens or Londis name appearing only on the back label. The symbol group is also working on in-store communications. "We now focus on the country of origin and have shelf-edge descriptors for each wine. Retailers have been asking for these moves for some time," she said. "We weren't doing enough to educate staff, so we have introduced a one-day course that all retailers can attend." John Taylor, head of buying, impulse, said the group was also working to make drinks more visible. Merchandising experiments had boosted spirits sales around gifting and during the wet summer weather. "One of our retailers pulled three or four key brands out from the centre, block merchandised them with mixers and sales rose 25%, while for Father's Day, putting a 400g Toblerone next to a 75cl Bells led to record Bell's sales," he said.

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