Prosecco may outsell Champagne but it lags behind when it comes to brand awareness. Lucy Shaw asks what companies can do to get their names on consumers’ lips.

BRITAIN’S UNQUENCHABLE thirst for Prosecco has been pivotal to the category’s recent success. Propelled to popularity during the recession, when consumers didn’t want to be seen to be flashing their cash, wallet-friendly Prosecco emerged as the ultimate crowd- pleaser. Light, fresh, slightly sweet, and with an appealing price point, it ticks all the boxes, meaning guilt-free cork popping around the clock. The strength of ‘brand Prosecco’ has solidified to the point where it now seems bulletproof, having carved a niche as a stylish sparkling wine rather than simply a cheap alternative to Champagne.

The latest figures suggest that Prosecco’s popularity is at an all-time high. According to the IRI, last year the UK was responsible for the lion’s share of Prosecco sales in Europe, accounting for 75% of total sales at a value of £600 million. To put this into perspective, British consumers glugged just £333m worth of Champagne over the same period. Last year, sparkling wine sales in the UK soared past the £1 billion mark for the first time, with retail sales during the first three months of the year equalling as much liquid to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Prosecco now accounts for over half of the sparkling retail market in the UK, with own-label Prosecco sales up by 79% at Lidl. Sales of the sparkler went bananas last Christmas, with the Co-op’s own- label Prosecco emerging as the retailer’s top-selling wine over the festive season. Aldi paints a similarly rosy picture – the German discount retailer shifted more than two million bottles of Prosecco last December. Taking the national obsession with the sparkler to new heights, the same month Aldi launched Prosecco- flavoured tea, allowing fans to get their fizz fix in the morning, albeit in a caffeine- free, non-alcoholic form. When it comes to Prosecco, bigger seems to be better. Sales of magnums are booming around the world, with Bosco Viticultori reporting a 1,000% uplift on a year ago.

New player Casanova changed the game Prosecco brand with big ambitions is new player Casanova, which hit the headlines in January when it announced the launch of the world’s most expensive Prosecco – a Swarovski Edition priced at £1,290 encrusted with 3,370 crystals. Just 100 magnums and 150 75cl bottles were made and are being sold to nightclubs and private clients in Russia, France and the US. “We’ve sold 20 magnums and 35 standard bottles so far,” enthuses Casanova’s founder, London-based Carlo Parodi, who quit a successful career in furniture production when he realised he wanted to work in an arena that supported his love of luxury and fuelled his partying habit. He hopes his audaciously priced Swarovski Edition will help catapult Prosecco into a luxury realm inhabited by prestige cuvée Champagnes such as Dom Pérignon.

“I realised there were no luxury Proseccos on the market and that there was a gap to be filled,” says Parodi.

The brand launched in 2014 and plays on the figure of Venetian adventurer, author and renowned womaniser Giacomo Casanova, whose lusty exploits are so well documented that his name has become a byword for sexual success. Parodi believes the name makes people smile, and chose it because of Casanova’s links to Venice and how well known he is all over the world. Unafraid of taking risks to attract attention, Casanova’s adverts feature naked women shot in black and white by a fashion photographer, with strategically placed bottles of the Prosecco hiding their modesty. Such racy advertising would never fly in France, but Parodi says he hasn’t had a problem with them in Italy. “Provocation is always welcome. Life can be boring and annoying at times, so we need to be provocative every now and then but in a classy way –I never want to be vulgar, it’s all about what you see and don’t see – I want people to use their imaginations,” he says.

In terms of successful brand building, Casanova’s Parodi believes Prosecco producers should take a leaf out of the Champenois’ book. “Champagne brands have worked very hard on their marketing. Prosecco isn’t at the same level, despite it outselling Champagne. My aim is to create the first really strong Prosecco brand – I want people to ask for Casanova when they drink Prosecco,” he says. The Casanova name is slowly seeping into the public’s consciousness via collaborations with glamourous events such as London Fashion Week and a hook-up with Versace.

The Drinks Business Magazine

by Lucy Shaw

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