NEW WINES FROM TOPCO JOIN PREMIUM TIER

SKOKIE, Ill. -- Topco Associates here has introduced two new adult beverages, one of which started selling in Meijer stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.Cellars Crest includes five varietals -- Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and Pinot Grigio -- all selling for about $10 a bottle. Quill Creek, more of an everyday-occasion wine available in Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, is being distributed into the

SKOKIE, Ill. -- Topco Associates here has introduced two new adult beverages, one of which started selling in Meijer stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Cellars Crest includes five varietals -- Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and Pinot Grigio -- all selling for about $10 a bottle. Quill Creek, more of an everyday-occasion wine available in Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, is being distributed into the supermarket channel at the suggested retail price of about $6 a bottle.

The wines are part of a broader effort on Topco's part to address the growing demand for more premium products. In fact, a new premium tier, called World Classics Trading Company, will soon become available to Topco members.

The first wave of products to roll out will include 60 stockkeeping units covering the categories of pasta, pasta sauce, rice, olives, olive oil, vinegar, salsa, bruschetta, crackers and deli cheeses.

According to executives at the cooperative, which services more than 50 member-owners in the retail and wholesale channels, the line was introduced to members during a recent annual meeting and will be ready to begin shipping within the next couple of weeks. "Consumers are telling us with their dollars that they are interested in more adventurous products," said Maryruth Wilson, Topco's vice president of brand and product innovation.

"As a cooperative we are looking for ways to aggregate our members' volume so that they can participate more fully in these growth categories. We are thinking that this will compete very well with premium products they already offer while offering better margin," she told SN.

One common packaging element in the new line is the presence of a man, whom Topco has dubbed "Hudson," who represents a buyer that travels the world looking for the finest products.

"He writes in his journal about the places that he goes and the food he tries and the people he meets, so we think it has a lot of romance and it's kind of fun," Wilson said.

The second wave of products will most likely roll out in late summer or early fall, Wilson said, and the assortment will be determined after receiving feedback from members.