Food Workshop

A wine startup is using health to challenge the category

Sparkling wines sales have been growing over the last few years. Thomson and Scott is a startup which is adding a health angle to target 20-somethings.

27 Jan 2017

A new company is trying to apply a health twist to wine. Thomson and Scott has created a range of ‘skinny’ wines which are vegan, organic and – most importantly – low in sugar. Despite being hailed by the Guardian as the ‘basic bitch drink’ of summer 2016, it’s about as far as it gets from Lambrini.

‘We’re becoming so obsessed with what we are eating, and not just at the high end – you can get an organic wagyu burger from a [streetfood] truck,’ Thomson says. ‘So many of us are eating mindfully, but necking quite crappy drinks.’

Thomson claims her prosecco contains half as much sugar as the average bottle of Italian bubbly, at just 7g a litre.

With its low sugar message, Skinny is taking wine and trying to tap into the wellness trend, positioning itself as more in line with Vita Coco or Propercorn than Moet. Thomson is also trying to do something that’s been traditionally difficult for wine companies: build a distinctive brand.

In 2015, £5.35m of wine was sold in the UK. Sparkling wine sales have being doing well too, growing by 80% over the last five years. Despite these impressive numbers, established (and generally stuffier) wine brands are still struggling to make wine fashionable and get younger consumers on board. In 2015, only 8.3% of wine in the UK was brought by 18 to 34 year olds.

By targeting this underserved market, Skinny is hoping to outstrip its competitors growth. Indeed, the brand has covered a fair bit of ground so far: since launching in April 2016, it’s already being stocked in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Zizzi. Thomson says the company has seen repeat purchase from customers who like that the brand fits with their ‘mindful’ lifestyle. There are plans to launch in the US, Canada and South Africa this year, and introduce several new wine types.

One stumbling block is likely to be the fact that most people aren’t aware how much sugar is in their wine in the first place. The fact Thomson’s bottles of prosecco have 7g of sugar in them may not mean a lot to customers who have no point of comparison.

Champagne, of which there are two in the Skinny portfolio, is already naturally low in sugar. Cava, which Thomson is looking into adding to her low-sugar portfolio, is already on the market with no added sugar.

The hope is the quality of her product will combat the knowledge gap that exists around wine, and Thomson has been careful not to let her low-sugar ethos negatively affect the taste (Thomson says the addition of sugar in prosecco does, to an extent, help balance the wine’s flavour).

‘I’m not here to destroy the mystique of other wine brands,’ she says. ‘The proof of the pudding’s in the eating. Bottom line is, does it taste good?’