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  • Writer's pictureSanto Vino


Updated: Sep 21, 2020

(No, Novellino is not Italian...)

Ask an average Filipino if he knows any Italian wines and he would probably reply: “Novellino, of course!”.

The thing is: Novellino is not Italian. With a very much Italian name on the label and an Italian flag, this local brand by “Bel Mondo Italia” (!) Corporation has maintained also in 2017 its lead in the Filipino wine market with more than 30% of the total volume market share.

Wait a minute! An Italian “sounding” wine scores 30% plus of the total local wine volume share? Indeed. Priced at around 250 Pesos, this number 1 selling “Novellino” is a wine bottled locally by a Filipino Company banking on its Italian name, sweet taste, outdoor advertising, social media marketing, low price and consistent television/radio exposure.

Ok, what about the Italian wines then?

Know first that 31% of all wine available in the Philippines comes from the United States, 13% from Australia and 10% from France. Italian wine roughly amounts to 6% of the market while Singapore (as a reseller), Spain, Chile and South Africa account for the remaining 40%.

So what are the reasons why in the Philippines Italian wines are not known – and consumed - as they should be? Long story short: zero advertising, zero television/radio reach and totally inadequate social media communication. How could Filipinos know about Italian wine if nobody would tell them, or make them try somehow?

Furthermore on the negative: few B2B meetings events organized even in the Capital, no resident representatives of famous Italian wine estates, rare road/fair/trade shows and no “Country System” whatsoever to support Italian wine imports in the Philippines…

However, no matter how grim the picture, this Country is still a promising market for Italian wine. In the last decade, wine has gradually become popular in the Philippines. The expansion of the wine market is believed to be around 5 to 10% per year in the next five years, the main driver of growth being the increase of middle class income and the consequent improved lifestyle.

Of course, wine demand in the Philippines is also driven by the growth in the tourism industry and the mushrooming of restaurants, bars and night clubs particularly in Metro Manila, rightly considered as the biggest wine market in the country with its 70% of imported wine sold. Sales growth in Cebu and other major cities of the Archipelago also wishes well for the industry, positively influencing nationwide wine consumption.

Adversely, only 2% of a Filipino population of approximately 105 million people consume wine, and of this 2%, only half are regular wine buyers. Add that the Philippines is still a beer, brandy and hard alcoholics consuming Country and you already know the difficulties Italian wine importers are facing.

Filipino population is mostly urban (45 million people dwelling in only few big cities) and the median age in the Country is 24.3 years, that is, an estimated 70 millions of Filipinos are below 30 years of age! This is a young, wide, potential wine drinking customer base we are talking about.

Besides, there is also a small but meaningful segment of high-end Filipino wine lovers, buyers and collectors, mostly from affluent households, who may spend without blinking, instance given, for expensive vertical vintages of Super Tuscan Sassicaia or Barolo Conterno bottles.

For the majority of Filipinos, though, wine is usually consumed on special occasions, on holidays and as gifts. Consider that if “budget buyers” (68% of wine consumers) would spend less or around 250 Pesos per wine bottle while “mid-range buyers” (22%) would pay 250 to 500 Pesos instead, there is only a 10% of “premium and ultra-premium consumers” left buying from 500 to 1,000 Pesos - and above - bottles of wine.

At the end of the story what can be done in favor of Italian wines?

Besides addressing all the issues described above, I believe consumer education is critical in order to boost wine consumption. The mission is to fill the knowledge needs of Filipinos and lead beginners, wine lovers and connoisseurs alike toward the Italian wines, which are “really good, reasonably priced, food friendly, different and diverse, cool and part of a rich culture and lively lifestyle” (read also: why should Filipinos love Italian wines).

From the vineyard to the glass, wine is a cultural, emotional and commercial product. It has a value both real and virtual. Wine being an acquired taste, more and more Filipinos (thanks to Ho.Re.Ca., internet, instant communication and easy travel) are getting acquainted and seduced by the wine.

In the Philippines, like other countries in Asia, drinking wine still carries a connotation of class and elegance, concepts so far monopolized – in the Filipino minds - by French and American wines. But with names such as Barolo, Brunello, Amarone, Cartizze and Franciacorta evoking images of the historical Italian terroirs, expensive bottles, autochthonous and exclusive grapes, the challenge is to simply attract the attention of Filipino palates and let the Italian wine do its magic.

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