In high spirits, Grover Zampa to take the fight to wine market leader Sula

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Bangalore | Updated: Jan 26 2013, 03:11am hrs
India's wine industry looks set for some action as Grover Vineyards, one of country's oldest wine makers, is gearing up to take the fight to market leader Sula with a revamp that has followed its recent merger with Nashik-based winery Vallee de Vin. The new entity Grover Zampa Vineyards, in which Reliance Capital has invested, is rejigging its portfolio besides rolling out two new port wines this month in a bid to enter the volume market.

Sula Vineyards, promoted by Rajeev Samant, currently claims a marketshare of 60% in India's still wine market excluding sales of fortified wine such as port wine which are also priced lower. While Sula is aiming at total sales of 550,000 cases (each 9 litres) this fiscal, Grover Zampa is currently at about 100,000 cases.

Last year, Bangalore-based Grover merged with Vallee de Vin, started by liquor industry veterans Ravi Jain and Deepak Roy in 2005. While the legal procedures are expected to be completed in a few months, the merger is expected to yield synergies, especially in interstate taxes, with two wineries in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

We are already finding that, in the first 4-5 months since we have come together, we have a much better chance of challenging the number one player, said Ravi Jain, MD of Grover Zampa. It's good to have a full portfolio to cater to all ends of the market. It's a one horse race right now.

Jain, who has built beer and spirits brands during stints at the UB Group and the erstwhile Shaw Wallace, acknowledged that Sula was fast enough to expand marketshare when India's largest wine company Indage Vintners buckled under its debt burden in 2009. In addition, the rush of new entrants had caused supply to exceed demand in a nascent market, driving several small wineries out of business.

Sula was very alert and went ahead and filled up all the vacuum that Indage created. They introduced new brands and they went into each price segment and they really galloped ahead, said Jain.

Grover Zampa is now positioning at least eight brands including sparkling and still wines in the price range of R200-1,100 a bottle besides introducing two port wine brands in the R100-150 category. We are a wine manufacturer and by staying only on the top we will never be viable. We should get to all levels and get all kinds of consumers, said Jain, adding that the firm is aiming at growing volumes by at least 50% next year.

It also plans to strengthen the marketing network besides appointing a CEO to run operations.

It's a long haul, it will take them at least 2-3 years, said Alok Chandra, a Bangalore-based wine expert and consultant. While the wine industry volumes are still small and profitability very thin, the barriers to expanding reach are also high, he said.

Sula, Grover Zampa and United Spirits Ltd are the three largest winemakers in India at present. The wine industry volumes were at 1.6 million litre in 2011, with fortified wine accounting for 600,000 litres according to data from the London-based market research firm Euromonitor. The fortified wine category has been growing faster than still light grape wines and sparkling wines.