View from the C-Suite: ‘Unleashing’ creativity in the wine business

Andrea Hunt, SVP and CMO of Arterra Wines, is looking to bring creativity to a category often stymied by convention.

Andrea-HuntAs VP of marketing for Weston Bakeries, Andrea Hunt led a portfolio strategy that helped reverse the perception that bread had become a stale business.

In her new role as SVP and CMO of Arterra Wines, where she began in January, the tactics may be different but the mission remains more-or-less the same: inject excitement into a category that she says has historically lagged in creativity, often bogged down by industry conventions.

Arterra Wines was born following the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’s 2016 acquisition of the Canadian branch of Constellation Brands. The wine company owns and distributes more than 100 brands, including seven of the leading 20 brands in the country, such as Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, according to Arterra’s website.

Millennials are no longer heading to fine dining restaurants pre-set with a few different wine glasses, Hunt says. In fact, they are just as likely to grab a can of wine on their way to the park with a blanket. That represents both a challenge and an opportunity for wine companies looking to evolve beyond their stuffy reputations  a symptom of society’s expectations of the category.

“Wine is a category that has remained remarkably unchanged in terms of its approach and messaging to consumers for decades,” she says. “In terms of creativity driving the business, wine has been conspicuously absent.”

In a recent interview with strategy, Hunt outlined what she thinks are the opportunities in the space, hinting at what may be in store for Arterra in the months and years ahead.

Jackson Triggs

What opportunities do you see in wine?

It’s a sexy, complex, dynamic category, and yet there’s not a lot of disruptive work. Beer does a tremendous job [of that], spirits do a tremendous job, and perhaps because of the traditional roots of wine itself, or the complexity, wine hasn’t really played in the same space. But we’re competing for the same share of occasion. If you think about category disruption, wine is rife with opportunity. I think if [the category is] too dusty, then [consumers] will look for other more relevant options. Unleashing creativity and innovation in a category that is core to so many moments of connection is really an enviable challenge and opportunity.

So bringing greater creativity to the category is part of your focus at Arterra?

Absolutely. It can come from innovation in format, the brands themselves, new brands, from the channels in which they’re offered. It can also come from the communication platforms for existing brands. [Our] brands are huge in scale, so the opportunity to make a bold impact is there. It really has to come from all fronts: innovation, communication and expansion of the portfolio. Consumers, particularly of the younger generation, are looking for craft, for uniqueness, for stories. As a category, it’s perfectly married with where consumers’ interests lie. It’s incumbent on us to offer it up in a way that is more interesting than perhaps it’s been historically.

Among the brands in your portfolio, which do you feel offer the best opportunities for innovation?

The equivalent of 2.5 bottles of Arterra wines are consumed every second. Or 267 every minute. But it’s against a broad portfolio and the category is very regionalized given the local nature of what is, first and foremost, a viticulture business. That said, Jackson-Triggs is Canada’s largest and most awarded wine and we have every intention of growing the country’s love for this brand. Inniskillin by comparison is exported to 85 countries and is the country’s largest wine brand globally, so it’s also a focus of our efforts. Given our leadership position in other categories and regions, Kim Crawford, Ruffino, Robert Mondavi, and regional brands like BU together with local boutique wineries will continue to be supported. While we are certainly tightening the number of brands we support, the length is still more than typical of most CPGs.

Arterra owns and operates 164 Wine Rack retail stores in Ontario. Has your Wine Rack strategy changed with wines now being sold in grocery aisles in Ontario?

The landscape through which you can find and shop the category will change tremendously even over the next 12 to 24 months. But [the regulatory changes have] not been a disruptive change for us as a company in that it [impacts only] Ontario. Privatized retail is already the norm in BC and Alberta. That said, I’m not sure that we’ve taken full advantage of the opportunity to really create meaningful consumer brand experiences at all our touchpoints, retail probably being the most notable example of that, and that will be something that we consider going forward.

This interview is part of a series for Strategy C-Suite, a weekly email briefing on how Canada’s brand leaders are responding to market challenges and acting on new opportunities. Sign-up for the newsletter here to receive the latest stories directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.