Packaging has to two purposes, to protect the product and to sell the product. The second part is more elusive, but no less important in a highly competitive market. The suggested retail price of the CK Mondavi wines is $6.99, which places them in a struggling segment of the market. According to Nielsen the $6-$8.99 price bracket declined 3.7% over the past twelve months, but Marc Mondavi, Proprietor of CK Mondavi Family Vineyards, is upbeat.
“Everybody says we’re not in the growth segment, $9 and above, but you have to realize, we’re in the biggest bracket, so even if the 1.5l are declining at 1-2%, it’s still by far and away the biggest bracket. It will be the biggest bracket for many years to come, so we just have to be smarter. We have to outmaneuver the other guys and figure out how to steal some business from them,” says Mondavi.
CK Mondavi is one of the oldest American wine brands with probably the best known family name in the American wine industry and their rebranded packaging aims to refresh and reinforce the brand strengths. “We go through repackaging every 6-7 years, so it’s time,” says Mondavi, whose grandfather Cesare Mondavi established the brand in 1946.
The new label has a cleaner more modern look, but honors its roots with a gold seal depicting Cesare Mondavi. The oak tree that symbolized the Mondavi family tree on the previous label is gone, but the word ‘family’ has been added to the brand name now: CK Mondavi and Family. “We feel it means something to the consumer,” says Mondavi, “we’re a family owned corporation, there are no outside shareholders.”
The Mondavi name is synonymous with wine, and especially in its price segment, the venerable name is an advantage the brand can leverage with consumers. Asked if that comes with a level of responsibility, Mondavi says “We don’t think of it that way, but it probably does come with a responsibility. We make great wines, there are millions of wines out there, but we’re consistent, and the consumer can trust our products.”
The goal of delivering a consistent quality product experience also influenced the packaging decision to switch from cork closures to screw caps. “One of the reasons we started switching to twist-offs is that you don’t get corked wines, and you don’t get wines where the cork has subdued some of the fruit notes,” Mondavi explains. “Dozens and dozens of times we’ve tested it by randomly pulling a case of white wines. Maybe you get one obviously corked bottle, but then there’s usually one or two bottles that’s not corked, but the nose is not as fresh as the other bottles. So it’s more than just cork taint that impacts cork sealed wines in my experience.”
Switching away from using cork also made it possible to be the first and only wine brand to obtain the 100% Made in the USA Certification, which is displayed on the back label. “Everything, the bottle, the foil, the capsule, the ink on the label, everything is made in America, and obviously the grapes are grown right here in California,” says Mondavi.
Another feature of the new label designed to appeal to consumers is the addition of a two word description of each wine’s flavor profile prominently displayed on the front of the label. The idea is to make it easier for consumers to know what they are getting and chose a wine that matches their tastes. “We think the descriptions are going to help,” says Mondavi, “and I can pretty much say, they’re not going to hurt.”
Despite the negative growth trends of their price bracket, Mondavi is not shy about his goals, and he believes that they can outperform the category by being a nimble family owned and operated business with a high degree of consumer confidence.
“The simple goal is that we want to continue to grow,” says Mondavi. “We know we have to steal market share. The industry continues to grow, not at what I’d call a rapid pace, but last year it was up a couple of percent. We should grow more than whatever the industry growth is, and if we’re not, we need to take a good hard look and see what are we doing wrong, what do we need to do better.”
However, Mondavi also recognizes that his wines are reasonably priced everyday wines, and not likely to achieve the super trend growth of some of today’s most successful brands.
“I don’t need to produce a Meiomi, that’s an anomaly, very few brands, Prisoner to a lesser degree, but those types of growth don’t happen very often. All the stars line up, right price, hot varietal, good name, great packaging, everything hit,” says Mondavi. “The 750ml in the CK Mondavi and Family line are growing at 8-9% per year, the 1.5l are declining a little bit. So if we can continue at say 5-6% growth, we’re going to be doing just fine.”
By Kim Badenfort