‘We’re getting killed’: Jackson Family Wines CEO calls for protections against imports
Saying he believes foreign wine imports could exceed the number of U.S. brands sold in America by 2050, Jackson Family Wines CEO Rick Tigner on Wednesday called for a reciprocal tax to ensure fair trade, not free trade.
“There are free trade agreements in other countries. We need a better, higher pricing structure and tariff protection to compete with rising imports,” he said at a Santa Rosa meeting of local business and community leaders. “So how do we get a tax on wine imports to achieve a fair playing field around the globe?”
Tigner, who joined Kendall Jackson in 1991 in sales and was named CEO and president of Jackson Family Wines in 2015, spoke to about 200 at the general membership meeting of Sonoma County Alliance.
Tigner said imports were once a smaller part of the total wine business. In 1990 imports were about 25% of wine sales across the country, and now imports are closer to 40% of the business. “By 2050, there will be more imported wine in America than American made wines.”
“We let import wines into America almost for free. On the world stage, we are getting killed. Imagine owning a business where you’re taxed up to 30-60+% to sell wine in a country that sells its wine to the U.S. with far less tariffs. American wines are at a disadvantage. We should have fair wine trade which means getting other wine producing countries to lower their tariffs, taxes and duties. That’s why I believe in a reciprocal taxation policy.”
Tigner said Jackson continues to produce and sell imported wines, some 30,000 cases from the family’s wineries from Italy, France, Australia, South Africa and Chile come to the U.S. annually. “There are 125,000 individual wine SKUs in the U.S. with more imported SKUs arriving all the time from hundreds of thousands of wineries on our planet.”
Tigner cautioned about the impact of imported wines.
“If we were to continue selling wine from other nations, we would be teaching the next generation to drink imported wine,” he said. “... There are 125,000 wine SKUs in the U.S. with more imported SKUs arriving all the time from some of the 150,000 wineries on our planet.”
Family-owned Jackson’s premium collection of 43 wineries and vineyards span the globe, located in countries such as South Africa, Australia, Chile, Italy, and France as well as in the Williamette Valley of Oregon and Sonoma, Napa, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties in California. The company’s products are sold under 50 brands, and its brands produced outside the country also are sold in the U.S. It produces six million cases a year and continues to set records. Jackson portfolio wines received more than 1,233 ratings at 90-plus points and above in 2018 alone.
“Our founder, the late Jess Jackson, told me years ago he had three goals – to pay down the company’s debt, raise the average price of JFW wines in every category it is in, and to be the best damn wine company in the world. He didn’t want his firm to get bigger, just better. This is what drives us. For us, quality is No. 1. Today JFW is the price and volume leader in its category. We’re not in the brand business, we’re in the winery business,” Tigner said. “This is why we are 50% ahead of our nearest competitor.”