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    7-Eleven Rolls Out Proprietary Premium Wine

    The move banks on the trend of America's increasing wine sophistication.

    DALLAS – 7-Eleven is expanding its proprietary wine segment with the introduction of Sonoma Crest Cellars, a proprietary, premium wine meant to compliment its existing Thousand Oaks wine brand, the company stated.

    "With our second venture into proprietary wines, we can offer a broader selection, appeal to consumers who want to move up to a premium brand but with a good price point, and provide great wines for special occasions," Mark Herron, 7-Eleven category manager for beer and wine, said in a statement. "Our Thousand Oaks brand has gained a loyal following among the under $10 wine consumer. We believe Sonoma Crest will become a favorite of the premium-brand wine customer."

    In chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon varieties, Sonoma Crest Cellars is made by the family-run Popcorn Wine Group in California's Sonoma wine country, according to the company. After deciding on the Sonoma area as the home for its premium proprietary wine, 7-Eleven developed flavor profiles for the varieties it wanted to offer, and began searching for a winery.

    "We wanted a small winery where we could work directly with the wine-maker, not just through a sales person," Herron said. "We stayed in contact with the wine-maker throughout the team-merchandising process -- creating the blends, bottle, label and even the cork."

    In addition, the brand won a silver award at the Orange County Commercial Wine Competition in Costa Mesa, Calif., where the merlot variety was judged, the company stated. While the premium wine line can be compared to a $15 bottle of wine, the suggested retail price for the line is $9.99.

    "Our goal is to offer a convenient shopping experience for the wine consumer," Herron said. "A typical 7-Eleven store with beer and wine carries 35 to 40 varieties of wine, both domestic and imports."

    7-Eleven expanded its wine selection in 1998 to include premium-quality wines. A year later, the company introduced an exclusive French import, and in 2005, 7-Eleven entered the proprietary wine segment with its Thousand Oaks brand. Since its introduction, sales of the Thousand Oaks varieties have made it the second most popular wine at stores, behind Gallo.

    7-Eleven has relationships with more than 400 wine distributors across the country, allowing the company to recommend more than 540 recommended bottles and offer approximately 3,500 other wine choices for each store, the company stated. Wine preferences vary by region, and the wide selection of wines allows store owners and operators to customize their category to local tastes, according to the company.

    "Americans not only are enjoying wine more, they're enjoying higher quality wines," Herron concluded. "We know that 7-Eleven customers are looking for convenience first and foremost, then quality and value. Sonoma Crest offers a premium quality wine at an unbeatable value. I think we'll see the same success in this segment as we did with Thousand Oaks."

    In other 7-Eleven news, the company extended its sponsorship with Andretti Green Racing (AGR), allowing IndyCar Series racer Tony Kanaan in the Team 7-Eleven car, as the partnership enters its sixth year in 2008, the company stated.

    "Tony has been a winner for 7-Eleven, both on and off the track," Kevin Elliott, 7-Eleven senior vice president of merchandising, said in a statement. "Our employees and franchisees can be proud of 7-Eleven's association with Tony and the AGR team. He is a competitive, aggressive and principled driver as well as an enthusiastic supporter and customer of 7-Eleven. We look forward to our sponsorship of Tony and to AGR's Racing Team 7-Eleven in its drive to a championship in 2008."

    7-Eleven has been Kanaan's sponsor since he began racing in the IndyCar Series in 2003. The company also sponsored AGR co-owner Michael Andretti at the Indianapolis 500 that same year.

    "One of the most important components in racing is consistency, and having 7-Eleven continue as the primary sponsor of the No. 11 car is a key to us winning another championship in 2008," Kanaan said. "I've really enjoyed being a part of the 7-Eleven family since 2003. I believe in their philosophy of customer service and appreciate all the support I receive around the world from management, franchisees, customers and vendors. Our goal each season is to win the championship and the Indy 500, and I look forward to giving 7-Eleven a shot at both in 2008."

    In addition to this sponsorship, 7-Eleven will have a brand presence on AGR’s entire stable of IndyCar Series entries, the company stated. As part of the AGR partnership, 7-Eleven has benefited from national and cable TV broadcasts, according to the company.

    "The popularity of the Indy Racing League is growing among our customers, so we believe there is a natural marketing fit for us," Elliott said. "Also, Tony and Team 7-Eleven can showcase some of our signature products that they enjoy like daily prepared fresh foods, coffee, Slurpee and Big Gulp drinks plus our recently branded 7-Eleven gasoline."

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