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Small wineries join together in alternative to Coles, Woolies

wine bottleBig supermarket critic and winery-owner Garry Crittenden is backing online as a path to market around Coles and Woolies, amid an expansion in “disingenuous” private label wines at the big chains.

His winery, Crittenden Estate, is one of twelve family-owned operations who have signed up to a new online sales platform called Seek Wines, which will see them pool market power to sell directly to consumers.

Launched by deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce in Canberra last night, the new venture is being spearheaded by Harvey River Estate founder Kevin Sorgiovanni and aspires to represent all 60 of Australia’s wine districts on a single platform – enabling partners to ship from their own warehouses to the doors of consumers.

Speaking to Inside FMCG, Crittenden said the platform will provide a “stable way” for small producers to get their product to the market.

“Seek Wines is first and foremost a stable way for small producers to get their product out into the market using a centralised platform, which is marketed through social media,” he said.

“The wines being offered on Seek Wines are, for want of a better word, ridgey didge genuine small producer family-owned wineries. My expectation is that people will [seek alternatives] to Dan Murphy’s.”

The move comes as Coles and Woolworths increase their private label investment to bolster margin and cement their market position amid intensifying competition from German private label giant Aldi and emerging online competitors such as Vinomofo.

Crittenden said the supermarket giants are being “disingenuous” by making the products look like boutique products on the outside, while on the inside they are actually produced very differently.

“When you walk into a Vintage Cellars or a Dan Murphy’s and you see these fancy names and labels they are quiet often generic wines that are sourced from anywhere, blended up in a big tank and bottled up with a pretty label,” he said. “They’re made to look like, or imitate, a small producer artisan label.”

Crittenden said the consumers will ultimately decide whether to buy into the private label strategies of the big supermarkets or opt for platforms like Seek Wines, but that if the American example is anything to go by, online wine sales will become an increasingly popular channel in Australia, potentially providing smaller operators with an edge over the big-two.

“At the end of the day it’s the consumer who will decide, they’ll determine whether they are prepared to pay a little more,” he said.

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