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Industry-Revolutionizing Innovation (INTERVIEW)

Wendy Nyberg, VP of Marketing at Sutter Home
Gil Haddi
October 18th, 2013
Setting trends since the early 70s, the Trinchero family-run Sutter Home winery created the light and fruity White Zinfandel back when people were limited to traditional varieties like Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Originally created by mistake, this slightly sweet vino became an overnight sensation, changing the future of the wine industry forever. This serendipitous turn of events was not to be the last for this fortuitous winery; Sutter Homes can also be accredited with national distribution of Moscato, a wine varietal that has recently become all the rage due to its prevalence in the hip hop scene, demonstrating that “continuously staying one taste bud ahead of the consumer,” as stated on the company’s site, is far from an empty claim. As further testament to this, The Trinchero Family Estates portfolio has now grown to over 35 brands.

Having worked in the industry for 27 years, 10 of which were with Sutter Home, Wendy Nyberg really knows the ins and outs of the wine business. One of the first wine companies to go green, before going green was even cool, launcher of Bandit brand which uses eco-friendly Tetra Pak packaging and creators
of the popular 187ml Sutter Home PET bottles, it is little wonder that Trinchero Family Estates is ranked as one of the top wine companies in the country. As the Vice President of Marketing, Wendy’s most recent project involved completely changing the look of Sutter Home’s line of wines, infusing labels with eye-catching colors and vibrantly fresh patterns. This fashionable new look iconifies the brand’s logo, staying true to the sentiments of Sutter Home as a lifestyle brand, while standing out on the shelves. With trendy Wendy’s passion and excitement about her work is clearly evident in the way she continues to strive for excellence and innovative thinking.

Four Questions with Wendy Nyberg:

1. How does your team come up with innovative ideas?

There is no special formula. Family owned companies are not necessarily traditional in that way and the brand really becomes an extension of your life. The team gets to know the brand extremely well which really helps with innovation because you know exactly what sits with the brand and what works with the consumer. We are a flat organization which makes us very agile where we can bring ideas to market very quickly. We involve highly creative people in our projects and don’t always stick with the same innovation team. In our offsite brainstorming sessions, we bring in people from our various brand groups, not just the marketing department, based on their talents as they might pertain to certain projects. Focus groups are a part of our research as well, but I have learned not to depend on those alone as they can easily work against you. To stay fresh, it is imperative to understand what is going on way beyond our industry and focus on the consumer and category experience to drive innovation.

2. Have other industries ever played a role in influencing innovation at Sutter Homes?

Looking at the shopping habits of women gives us insight into how they choose products, the trends in home decor, makeup packaging and perfume bottles have translated into interesting shapes in liquor and wine bottles. We’ve noticed that top stylish retailers, for example, are using lots of brighter colors and patterns which is something we’ve adopted on our new packaging. Shopping around at stores outside of the wine category gives us a view of what’s happening in packaging because the way a product is presented is critical when it comes to the wine category. Many consumers choose their wine based on the general type and price range, but with thousands of bottles lining the shelves, picking one can often be overwhelming.

Even before the product gets to the consumer, we have to take into account the retailer because they have to like it enough to put it on display. There are lots of channels we have to go through before the consumer ever gets to see the wine.

3. What makes a culture of innovation?

You need a combination of people who understand categories, team members who are really good analysts and thinkers as well as those people who are always coming up with crazy ideas and willing to throw them out there. You need an environment of free-thinking because that is where the best ideas can come from. Our team members consist of a good cross-section of age groups and we tend to incorporate people who are not necessarily within the industry to find that new and big idea. I’m lucky in that I’m not handcuffed to an innovation team, I have the autonomy to put teams together based on the projects we’re working on.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges you face when it comes to innovating?

Our industry is supply and demand, so once we see a trend with regards to a product, such as the current Moscato and Tetra Pack trends, production becomes a big factor for us in our innovation process. We are relying on vineyards and a crop so we need to stay in tune with where trends are going down the road, because investments in new equipment or vineyards could be the edge we need when it comes to being the first to market with a product. You need to have conviction in your beliefs and follow through on each idea in order to see it to fruition. Being a family-owned company, the Trinchero family is involved in all of the decisions and ideas – and no one is more convicted and passionate than they are.
References: linkedin, sutterhome