The private equity owners of Australia's biggest winemaker, Accolade Wines, will pour $15 million into refreshing its flagship Hardys brand to bolster the 160-year-old label's dominance in Britain and prepare for a new assault on the Asian and North American markets.
An updated design and branding for Hardys, which is the biggest selling wine in Britain by volume and value, will be matched by greater investment in ahardvertising and retail incentives as well as the launch of a new mid-tier wine brand, to be called William Hardy.
It will feed into a wider strategy for Hardys to forge greater alignment between the brands' sub-labels, which range up and down the price scale from the popular and affordable Nottage Hill, to the more premium and collectable label Thomas Hardy Cabernet.
Accolade Wines' general manager Australia and New Zealand, Michael East, said the project was intended to leverage the history of Hardys to place it before a greater number of drinkers and across more market segments.
"The name Hardys carries heritage and quality with it, and our mission is to reinforce these aspects whilst placing the quality of our wines at the forefront of our offer."
The brand investment covers global above-the-line advertising spend, below-the-line brand support and captures the investment in consumer research leading to the redesign, Mr East said.
Accolade Wines would also maintain its investment in the Australian market but saw opportunities to move British consumers up the brand ladder and into premium brands within the portfolio.
The new William Hardy sub-brand was unveiled to the wine press last week and will celebrate Thomas Hardy's fourth generation descendant Bill Hardy's more than 40 years with the company.
The new William Hardy label is expected to sell for about $20, sitting in the "masstige" segment and helping to shift Hardys' centre of gravity up towards more premium pricing.
Traditionally Hardys has been a bigger player in the sub-$15-a-bottle sector and while it also had a range of wines at the luxury end it has lacked punching power in the $15-$30 bracket.
Accolade Wines is also building its presence in the US, the world's biggest wine-consuming market by total volume, and Asia. "US consumers are switching to wine from other alcoholic beverages and we see an opportunity there as the American consumer grows more sophisticated," Mr East said.
The winemaker will push the Hardys brand in Asia as well.
In 2011 CHAMP Private Equity shelled out $290 million to buy a controlling 80 per cent stake in the Australian and European wine brands of struggling beverage group Constellation Wines, renaming the acquired business Accolade Wines.
Its portfolio includes Hardys as well as Houghton, Leasingham, Tintara, Banrock Station, Berri, Stanley and Omni.
In mid 2012, Accolade paid $40 million to buy Californian wines Geyser Peak, Atlas Peak and XYZin from failed US winemaker Ascentia.