Ruby might still dominate when it comes to port sales in the UK, but tawny is decidedly on-trend, and Sandeman is getting fully behind this. The house has unveiled dramatic changes to the packaging of its four aged tawnies, departing significantly from tradition and setting its sights squarely on the on-trade.
The iconic cloaked figure remains prominent on the packaging, but the colourful labels and embossed bottles themselves – now made of clear glass – are a major departure. There's a wax seal on each to communicate the vast number of awards the range, which includes a 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old expression, has received. But it's the resealable, glass vinolok closures that will make the most difference when these are served in the on-trade.
The brand has its eye on both bars and restaurants for its tawnies, with cocktail suggestions being promoted alongside chilled aperitif serves. There are as-yet-unconfirmed plans for the new year to communicate this to the UK on-trade. 'We need to work closely with the on-trade to show them lots of ways to drink port,' Sogrape UK managing director Gonçalo Sousa Machado told Imbibe. 'On-trade has been the focus, but we believe now is the time to put in more effort.'
The company is putting its money where its mouth is. In Porto, for example, it has set up a bar in a container, offering the full range, as well as a selection of cocktails. 'When we opened it [18 months ago] we thought we projected sales of six bottles of the 40 year old in a year. We're selling that much in a month,' added Machado.
Stranger & Stranger is behind the new design, who apparently spent time going through Sandeman's archives to create new packaging that was at once disruptive, yet referred to the house's traditions. The tawny repackaging is the first step in an overall redesign for the entire Sandeman range.
Expect to start seeing the new packaging in the next few weeks. And look out for one of those container bars over here someday – although we'll need to wait until 2018 for that, apparently.