Conversation with Roberto Sarti, Private Labels and Merchandising in Caviro

10 September 2015

More than thirty years have gone by since when, in April 1983, Tavernello was created, the first Italian wine in Tetra Pak carton. An innovative and bold choice, that turned out to be a winning one. We talked about the history and the success of this brand with Roberto Sarti, Private Labels and Merchandising Manager in Caviro, after his meeting with the Community of the EMBA Coop and the students of the full-time masters.

Caviro’s most important product is Tavernello, the most popular wine in Italy, and a best-seller at it. How did you manage to win the loyalty of such a high number of customers?

All great successes are a mix of environmental, cultural and social conditions that foster them. Thus is how Tavernello was born. At the beginning of the 80’s, consumers who had started buying in large retail trade supermarkets, felt the need to use lighter and more practical containers than glass bottles. Tetra Pak®, an important multinational packaging company, was looking for a wine producer with which to perform some tests, while Caviro had at its disposal huge quantities of wines (that were bottled in glass at the time) suitable to these needs. Tetra Pak® had (and still has) its R&D plant just outside Modena, Caviro had (and still has) its main plant in Forlì, they were close: thus the project of wine in a carton container was developed. The container though needed to be “approved” by the Ministry of Agriculture together with the Ministry of Health. For over a year, tests were carried out at the Agriculture faculty of the University of Bologna. The tests showed that the carton was able to preserve wine like glass (if not even better), protecting it from air and light, that accelerate the ageing process. So we got to the launch of Tavernello, a light product (in all senses), practical, nice and of excellent quality. Our success is therefore the result of a virtuous encounter between entrepreneurial and academic realities, that met along the via Emilia.Tavernello is produced by dozens of thousands of members.

What is the added value of this type of production?

We have 32 cantine sociali (cooperative wineries) with over 10,000 members and this allows us to be able to count on a continuous and diversified production. Our suppliers are also our members, that is the “owners” of the company, and they are very keen on providing the best product. Caviro guarantees them a continuous revenue, therefore there’s a relationship of mutual satisfaction and dependence. An aspect that characterises us, as for the relationship with our members, is traceability. As we are able to count, mostly, on our suppliers/members, years ago we established an efficient and real traceability programme, one that can be checked online. You simply need to type in the production lot number of Tavernello and you can easily know which is the cantina sociale that supplied that wine. Internally we can even trace the individual wine-maker that supplied it.

How did you manage to maintain a policy of price containment?

Being able to count on large quantities of product allows making scale economies in the purchase department, as well as in production and distribution. We have production lines that are active 24 hours a day, 5 days a week – at times on Saturday too – and this allows a quicker writing off of the costs of the plants. In addition, we can count on state-of-the-art technology, available on the market, because every time that Tetra Pak® launches new machines on the market, they are immediately installed in the company; the same applies to glass technology, we’re growing exponentially in the glass sector, in particular and precisely with the Tavernello brand, which is increasingly a leader also in the bottle segment.

What is the role played by advertising spots and marketing campaigns in determining the success of the product?

Tavernello represented an innovation also in the choice of TV as the means to be used to tell its own story and to rapidly increase its distribution. In the Sixties and Seventies a couple of companies advertised on TV: short-lived experiences. In the Eighties there was no-one left who could afford doing it, because wine are historically local products and no-one invests in an expensive national campaign if the distribution is limited territory-wise. When we started off with Tavernello, we took the decision to move straight into the large scale retail trade, so we were able, right from the start, to focus on TV communication that would cover all the national territory where we were already present. The investment was relevant, but we knew that TV (back then the impact was stronger than today) would create immediately image, memory and request.

What are the plans for the future?

The Italian wine market is already saturated. Consumption started decreasing since the beginning of the 60’s, when it peaked: Italy was an agricultural country and farmers used wine as a food. At the time, the average consumption was 120 litres per capita, including newborn babies. Today the level is less than 1/3 of the consumption 50 years ago. The reason is that wine is no longer, as it was in the past, a food or a fundamental element present during every meal: it’s increasingly becoming a product for aperitifs or to be consumed outside meal-time. Nonetheless, while in Italy we’ve reached these levels of consumption, in other countries demand is on the increase. For this reason we’re working hard abroad, and in the last 10 years, we’ve achieved significant results. Tavernello sells millions of pieces in Germany, Russia, China, Japan and many other countries. Abroad people are aware that Tavernello is “the best selling wine in Italy”, and this is already a guarantee for those who love Italy: people don’t care whether it’s carton or bottle, still or sparkling, they buy the leading brand in Italy. Over one sixth of Caviro’s turnover (in total over €300 million) is already created outside of Italy, and it’s constantly growing. Therefore, our objective is to go on developing strongly abroad, both in Europe and in the US and the Far East.

What piece of advice would you give to a student who’d like to operate in this industry?

I’m aware that the current generation, versus the one my peers and I belong to, is definitely not as lucky, as the selection to access the labour market is harder than in the past. Many jobs are disappearing, replaced by a software or an innovative technology, but this is not the case for everything and everyone: the human element and therefore, individual features, capacities and skills, remain indispensable, especially in an industry as relevant as the food industry. Anyway, my advice would be never to refrain from presenting oneself, to try, always, without being bothered by the entry level in a company, if one really wants to start working in a Food sector one’s interested in. If you’re good, you’ll find the way to emerge. If I were to summarise three essential characteristics (even though they’re not enough): strength of character, reliability, willingness to work. So, don’t give up and rest assured that if you work hard you’ll get a result, even though not always (and not immediately) what one hoped for. Go on, and doors will open up before you.


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