UNCORKING SALES

MODESTO, Calif. -- Following in the steps of competitors like Trader Joe's, Safeway and Albertsons, Save Mart Supermarkets here has launched a private-label economy wine. Marketed under the Fox Brook brand, the wine is available in five varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and White Zinfandel. It sells for $1.99 per 750-milliliter bottle, or $23.88 per 12-unit case. Classic Wine Co./Bronco

MODESTO, Calif. -- Following in the steps of competitors like Trader Joe's, Safeway and Albertsons, Save Mart Supermarkets here has launched a private-label economy wine. Marketed under the Fox Brook brand, the wine is available in five varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and White Zinfandel. It sells for $1.99 per 750-milliliter bottle, or $23.88 per 12-unit case. Classic Wine Co./Bronco Wine Co., Ceres, Calif. -- the same company that supplies Trader Joe's highly popular Charles Shaw value wine -- produces Fox Brook for Save Mart. Trader Joe's introduced Charles Shaw a few years ago for $1.99 to $3.39, depending on store location. Because of its price point, it's dubbed "Two Buck Chuck."

Since its introduction in April, Fox Brook has brought incremental sales to the category, according to Mark Endres, beer, wine and liquor buyer for the retailer's Save Mart Foods, FoodMaxx and S-Mart banner stores. SN asked Endres to discuss the benefits of carrying Fox Brook, and to comment on other areas of wine retailing.

SN: Why did Save Mart get involved with an economy wine?

ENDRES: The goal of the wine is to compete with Trader Joe's Charles Shaw wine. We decided to go after the [economy wine] category after noticing that our low-end wine sales started showing a decline. Two Buck Chuck probably had a lot to do with that.

SN: How is Fox Brook performing?

ENDRES: Fox Brook proves that a $1.99 wine can taste good. We were concerned that Fox Brook might hurt sales of other wines. But since its introduction in April, total category sales are up 10%, and sales of 750-milliliter bottles are up 19%. Our goal was to sell about 100,000 cases during the wine's first year on shelves. But it has sold nearly that much in just six months. It's far exceeding our expectations, and hasn't hurt any other product sales in the category. We certainly are bringing in new customers, and probably are attracting some people who previously went to Trader Joe's to buy Two Buck Chuck.

SN: Along with offering economy wines, what else can supermarkets do to boost exposure and sales of wine?

ENDRES: Marketing is a big plus. That's probably why Fox Brook has been as successful as it has. We've really gotten behind it. We use freeway billboards, radio, in-store communications, floor ads, standees and case tags. We also promote it in our weekly ads, as well as in our monthly savings book. Secondary locations are also important. We sell Fox Brook by the unit in our wine department and in pallets in the front of the store. It's also sold by the case for $23.88. Case tags promoting the $23.88 price point have been successful.

SN: What about cross merchandising? Are there more opportunities to do so today than in the past?

ENDRES: Yes, there are more opportunities. Over the last four years, the wine industry in general has done a better job cross merchandising with produce, meat, deli and other departments. We do a lot of it ourselves. Recently, we tied in Black Swan wine with fresh bread, pasta, pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese. It did very well. Now that the holidays are approaching, we have even more cross-merchandising opportunities.

SN: Why is the wine consumer such an important consumer?

ENDRES: If a customer purchases wine, the basket ring goes up by about $11 to $20. Plus, wine buyers buy more premium products in the store.