Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, founded in 1692, talks about innovating in an iconic company …

When I met with Adrian a few days ago he shared the story of what in the Port wine business he considers to be an innovation of historic proportion, and he said the inventing of Rosé Porto.

It’s an important story of creating a new category despite significant regulatory challenges, while maintaining — in fact fortifying — the complete integrity of the brand. To me it is a great case study in business innovation. Here is what Adrian told me:

“When you are one of the oldest companies in the world (Taylor Fladgate Port Est.1692) it is reasonable to assume that everything must be working well to have survived that long. Innovation? Who needs it? We have survived (and thrived) because alcohol has not gone out of fashion and because quality will always find a customer.

“But, each year, a new generation of consumer is born — all of whom need to be educated. Opportunity! Yet every distribution channel demands something new and exciting. Challenge! Innovation of product or packaging? Or both?

“For me it is about listening to customers and thinking deeply about what they are wanting and taking risks. My view is we can overanalyze customers. We are all consumers and we can trust our own view as to what we like and what we expect from brands.

“New, in 2008 I created Rose Port – other wine categories have Rosé, why not Port? … In 2013 I turned 50 and many friends sent me gifts. My response was to launch a 50-year-old single harvest Port for our extensive reserves that we kept for blending. The result is an entire new, premium market of Ports, and many happy 50-year-olds!

“Innovation is a mindset that combines deep thought and risk. We can all do it if we trust ourselves.”