Stowells presents a very interesting and contrasting picture in terms of its sales and positioning in the UK. One of the longest established wine brands, it led the field for years, during the 80s and early 90s, with its easy to select, reassuring range of wines, from all over the world.
Today, it has disappeared almost entirely from the retail side of the business – it is never seen in supermarkets, and only spasmodically in convenience stores. It no longer features in the UK’s top 20 wine brands... and yet, it is STILL the number 1 on trade brand, ie the brand that is sold the most in pubs and restaurants around the country. And it’s the 6th largest brand in the smaller convenience and newsagent style of shops.
About Stowells Wine
It has a very loyal following, especially with those who grew up with the brand, and still offers a safe and reliable introduction to a wide variety of wine styles, to those wine drinkers who prefer to have some expert guidance, and to be reassured by the safety of a well known name.
Whilst it has lost its crown in recent years, Stowells has to be credited with being one of the true innovators in the UK wine industry. Stowells was the brand that made wine accessible in pubs and bars; Stowells was the brand that introduced bar dispensers to pubs, so that customers could purchase a single glass. And Stowells also revolutionised the packaging of wine, with the first UK launch of the bag in box, followed by 187ml bottles and single serve cans.
Stowells was founded in 1878 by Frederic Stowell, who set up a wine merchant business in London, and opened the first of what would develop into 70 shops. The company was rebranded Stowells of Chelsea in 1927, when they moved offices to Chelsea.
By the mid 20th century, the brand was under the ownership of major UK wholesaler Matthew Clark, and is now owned by the world’s largest international wine company, Accolade wines.
Stowells introduced its revolutionary ‘bag in box’ concept, a packaging format, previously only seen in Australia, in 1981, and went on to become the number 1 wine brand in the UK. With Matthew Clark’s strength in the pub and restaurant business, the company thought about ways of making wine more accessible as a drink by the glass, and was the pioneer of today’s sophisticated systems, by introducing a bar dispenser in 1983.
Unbeknown to many, Stowells was sold only in the 3lt box format until 1999, when the Stowells 75cl bottle was introduced, enabling wine drinkers to purchase at retail, the wine that they enjoyed when they went out. The launch of smaller size and single serve bottles followed, as did the launch of easy to serve, convenience wine cans.
130 years on from launch, Stowells may have lost its presence on supermarket shelves, but it is still a strong presence in smaller convenience stores. However, it is still very much the number one on trade brand, and with new, modern styles of wine, is still bringing wine to pub goers all over the country.
What Styles Of Wine Do Stowells Produce?
The Stowells range, has been focussed on ‘Discovery’, from the inception. Rather than representing wines from one country, the brand seeks to help the voyage of discovery and introduce different styles and tastes from vineyards around the world. The range changes on a regular basis, to update styles, and to introduce new trends and wine regions.
There are over 20 wines in the range, all labelled by grape variety, and ranging from very dry to medium sweet for the whites and rose, and light to full bodied for the reds. The range encompasses most of the major wine producing countries in the world.
White – a range of 9 wines, from dry to medium sweet, including: crisp Italian Pinot Grigio; zesty Australian Colombard Chardonnay; punchy Chilean Sauvignon Blanc; refreshing Spanish Airen; soft Italian Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio; ripe, full Californian Chardonnay; fruity South African Chenin Blanc; medium dry French Colombard Sauvignon; and fruity German Liebfraumilch.
Rose – 3 wines in this selection: delicate and dry Merlot Rose; fruity Spanish Bobal; and sweet California white Zinfandel.
Red – a range of 5 wines, each representing the grapes and styles best known from those regions, and include: soft, easy drinking Spanish Tempranillo, their top selling red: plummy French Merlot; spicy Australian Shiraz; and fruity Chilean Cabernet Merlot.
Stowells have also recently introduced 2 lower alcohol wines, with only 5.5% alcohol (half that of the average normal alcohol level) and only with one third fewer calories per glass or bottle. Stowells Light – crisp, fruity Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc, and a warm, soft Shiraz.