Brand data

London-based IWSR is one of the oldest wine research houses in the world. Sophie Kevany looks at how it’s still going strong.

Mark Meek
Mark Meek

Founded in 1976, the IWSR is one of the most established alcoholic drinks data companies and, says CEO Mark Meek, the only one that focuses solely on alcoholic beverages across all categories. “We are also the only one that has researchers and analysts in 150 markets dedicated to collecting alcohol beverage data,” Meek told Meininger’s Wine Business International.

The database

IWSR’s database, updated every year in May, covers 25,000-plus brands and the industry sees it as the most accurate data source for brand sales, Meek said. “We cover sales volumes, we do store checks in all markets and provide the recommended retail price (RRP) for each one.” As an example, he said clients accessing the database could see Yellow Tail sales in UK for 2017 (split by on- and off-trade), the 2017 RRP and 20 years of historic data. Quality segmentation is included, ranging from ultra-premium to standard, for all brands in all markets.

Beverage analysts Stephen Rannekleiv and Maria Castroviejo, who both work with Rabobank, mainly agreed with Meek, saying IWSR is a trusted wine and spirits data provider. Rannekleiv added, however, that there might be others better for beer and other drinks. They further agreed that although no data is perfect, the IWSR is the most reliable source available, particularly for brand level insights. 

Describing the IWSR’s data collection techniques, for both databases and reports, Meek said it begins by examining any available public information from drinks companies. “We look at export figures, shipment figures and any other relevant data.” To ensure they are collecting the most accurate consumption figures possible for each market, IWSR staff on the ground cross-check the public data. “They talk to importers, retailers and other sources.” So if drinks are being imported and then re-exported, or kept in warehouses rather than retailed locally, IWSR researchers would confirm that via their local networks. “We own those relationships on the ground; they are a crucial part of our validation process,” Meek said. 

Unusual sales patterns, compared to historic data, are another area where local researchers shine. If a wine brand has doubled its sales volumes compared to the historic data, for example, “we would check that out and they might tell us that 10% has gone to a new market like Indonesia. We would always revalidate any data we get with four or five other people.”

Local resources additionally mean the IWSR can talk to people who might not want to commit comments to paper, such as grey market operators, then adjust official statistics to match reality and tell clients what the latest trends are and why.  

Widely shared

IWSR forecasts are also popular with media and clients. “Our forecasts are relied on by the industry and we go back and validate those forecasts on a rolling basis,” Meek said. The results are pleasantly surprising, he said, with a 0.5% accuracy variant in the spirits area on a five-year basis, and 2.3% for wine. “Wine has a multitude of brands so is a bit harder to predict.”

Describing demand, Meek said clients literally wait with bated breath for the figures. “We start to get calls asking about it as it comes up to publication. The data is used at board level to calculate market share, performance against competitors, and to set targets. It’s also used by banks as the key source for beverage alcohol trend data.”

IWSR reports include distributor lists showing the major importers/distributors and their portfolios. It offers to recommend distributors and, where known, it will supply the contact details of key personnel. 

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