The wholesaler pulled off a surprise but worthy win for Best Own-Label Range as Sonya Hook reports

After a close battle, Landmark emerged as the winner of the Best Own-Label Range title at The Grocer Gold Awards. The wholesale group stole the accolade for its Vintners Collection wines which, the judges say, “generates a club feeling for both consumers and retailers”.
Landmark’s marketing director Chris Rose says: “We are absolutely thrilled. When we knew what we were up against in terms of multiple retailers, we didn’t think we stood a chance. It is recognition of all the hard work that has gone into the Vintners Collection and the support by our members and customers.”
Landmark beat stiff competition to clinch the award. Sainsbury’s was one of the shortlisted entrants for its Basics budget range, which caught the eye of the judges for its clean designs. The range made its debut across 500 lines in all in-store categories to replace the retailer’s Low Price budget range. The on-pack captions on the Basics range, such as “Smoked Salmon trimmings: Same fish, smaller pieces”,also appealed to the judges.
Waitrose’s Entertaining Service, which aims to provide a one-stop shop for customers seeking easy solutions for demanding guests, was commended as “a truly fantastic idea and execution.”
Marks & Spencer’s “top notch” Cook! concept was considered to embody the very best of the retailer’s food offer. And finally Aldi stood out for its premium range of Continental meats. The judges considered them “very appetising” and praised the retailer for the range’s high quality packaging.
But at the end of the day, it was Landmark’s Vintners Collection that really stood out, particularly because of its easy-to-digest information about each wine, which the judges recognised as a clear selling point. Bottle presentation and sales figures relating to the range also impressed.
The company operates as a trading and marketing group for cash & carry, traditional and foodservice wholesalers. There are 31 wholesale member companies trading in more than 60 locations with a combined group turnover of £1.8bn.
Landmark has always been proud of the attention it gives to its alcohol section. Over the years it feels it has developed strong, exclusive brands in wines, beers, ciders and spirits. But the Vintners Collection was set up in response to dramatic changes in the marketplace, which Landmark felt demanded the replacement of its multi-brand exclusive selection of wines with an all-new brand.
The goal was to secure a range of high quality wines from around the world and to present them in attractive packaging at prices that would afford generous profit margins for retailers while providing value for consumers.
A target launch date for the range was set for early summer 2004 and meeting this deadline required close teamwork between Landmark’s trading and marketing departments, wine producers and suppliers, plus external design and advertising agencies and, of course, Landmark’s Wine & Spirits Trading Controller, Steve Mayes, who managed the new project.
After much deliberation, Landmark decided to set up in partnership with Constellation Wines, which not only provides access to approved and accredited wineries around the world, but also undertakes distribution direct to Landmark outlets across the UK.
The brand name Vintners Collection was chosen and a logo and range of labels were designed with colourful imagery that would be carried through to retail point-of-sale material. Meanwhile, marketing and field personnel were tasked with producing a launch plan that would bring Vintners Collection to the attention of the entire UK drinks market.
While the marketing strategy was getting well under way, Mayes worked with Constellation wine specialists on sourcing the wines, sampling hundreds of styles from both Old and New World. They finally approved a total of 34 wines selected for their ability to over-deliver on quality when set against price. The wide-ranging selection includes varietals and blends from Australia, California, South Africa, Chile, France, Italy and Germany.
Special distribution arrangements were established, providing both ex-cellars buying, particularly from France and Germany, and a central distribution operation capable of delivering as little as one case of a single wine within a minimum drop load.
Landmark placed strong emphasis on advertising the range. Within its depots this comprised giant display boards, end posters, shelf cards, retailer guides and free point-of-sale kits. Trade advertising went into key trade journals and various tastings were held with trade press to ensure the Collection secured maximum exposure to independent retailers.
Landmark wholesalers were also given a chance to sample the wines at presentations across the country for managers, buyers and licensed drinks department staff. The wholesalers then organised tasting events for their trade customers.
Tastings were key events for Landmark and indeed it managed to achieve nine medals and commendations at the 2004 International Wine Challenge for its Vintners Collection wines, with the Chilean varietal selection being highly praised. Since the launch, additional sizes of German wines and a range of 25cl New World single serve wines have been introduced and more New World single and dual varietal wines are planned.
“We have already developed four 25cl bottles for both single serve and for the on-trade and over the next year we plan to build on the success of the Vintners Collection with different sizes and through introducing wines from different countries,” says Rose.
Landmark firmly believes that the Vintners Collection has made a significant contribution to its business and it has gained noticeable support from existing customers as well as securing many new ones. It says the launch of the Collection has been key to the success of its wine business overall and has led to nearly 40% growth over the past year.