[caption id="attachment_25063" align="alignright" width="266" caption="Constellation Brands recently redesigned the iconic HRM Rex Goliath package."][/caption]
The "giant 47-pound rooster" will still strut its stuff on the HRM Rex Goliath label, but the new design for the top-selling popular-premium-tier wine brand is getting a makeover as part of a trend in wine packaging somewhat away from the fanciful and more toward the traditional.
Constellation Brands has tweaked the label to include more "quality cues" such as metallic inks, a simplified border and a more straightforward presentation of the brand name, which some consumers had problems figuring out, according to Leslie Joseph, vice president of consumer research.
"The brand has always been about fun," she said. "We want to be true to the brand but have a label that is less cartoonish."
Hahn Family Wines President Bill Leigon, who launched HRM Rex Goliath in 2002 and sold it to Constellation in 2005, is set to talk at length Tuesday at the Wine Industry Financial Symposium in Napa about a movement back to brand authenticity with conventional-looking labels. That means less cuteness and frivolity and fewer critters.
Constellation Wines U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Chris Fernstrom said many wine brands five years ago were moving toward the "lifestyle" presentation, featuring animals, striking colors and other images, but that trend started reversing a couple of years ago.
"While we're moving to traditional designs, in the last six months in independent retail there has been more experimentation with labels that are lifestyle-driven," Mr. Fernstrom said. "There are consumers who enjoy traditional packaging. Others want to know, 'What is in it for me?' There is room for both."
[caption id="attachment_25132" align="alignright" width="202" caption="The former Rex Goliath label design"][/caption]
A driver for the shift to the whimsical was the emergence of the "Millennial" generation of wine consumers, as a major growth sector for fine wine sales. Millennials, the oldest of which now are in their early 30s, were characterized by higher consumption of fine wine than Generation X and proportionately comparable to that of baby boomers.
That younger core wine consumption group also was distinguished by interest in greater experimentation, less "stuffy" presentation of wine and more opportunities to have wine on the dinner table, according to Ms. Joseph.
Yet Constellation is finding that with the initial and persisting pullback in spending during the economic recession, a number of consumers are less willing to "gamble" on unknown brands, she said. But Millennial consumers continue to purchase a lot of wine.
The company conducted a large wine consumer research project in 2005-2008 called Project Genome, which sought to find common purchasing factors. One of the defining factors of the "traditionalist" wine consumer was interest in "tried and true" brands, but now the "savvy shopper" and "enthusiastic" consumers also are wanting to have more of their purchasing criteria met before buying wine, according to Ms. Joseph.
Because of the return to frugality trend and other significant changes in consumer behavior in the past two years, she wants to update the research project next year and have results in hand in 2012.