If you are an experienced wine buyer, specialising in a particular country have you ever thought of making the most of your expertise by going it alone? It’s what James Hocking did when he moved on from The Vineyard Cellars, the business where he made his name, importing Californian wine for The Vineyard in Berkshire, at the beginning of 2019. Here he shares what’s its been like starting his own business and then having to deal with Covid-19.
Like the rest of the drinks industry, Corney & Barrow had the proverbial rug pulled from under its collective feet with the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown that saw the on-trade close and with it a large chunk of its daily business. But thankfully having its eggs placed in a number of different trading channels has meant Corney & Barrow has been able to adapt, divert resources and find new and innovative ways of selling and distributing its range of wines. As Tim Wheeldon, on-trade sales manager, explains.
No matter how bad your nightmares might have been in recent weeks they would have to be pretty awful to beat the living drama we are all having to go through with the impact of Covid-19 on all our working lives, and – as we have been reminded of so bluntly by the shenanigans in the House of Commons this week – the impending deadline of January 1 when the UK formally leaves the EU. It’s a situation that Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, summed up perfectly in the speech he gave yesterday to kick off the WSTA’s online summit. Here’s his take on the dangers that lie ahead and why as a sector we all need to be batting as one to get as good an outcome from Covid-19 and Brexit as we can.
Entering major international drinks competitions is an important part of any producer, importer or retailer’s marketing budget. But it’s going to be harder than ever to find the resources to enter your products with all the other costs and issues that Covid-19 has thrown up. Which is why The People’s Choice Wine Awards has introduced new bursaries, with the support of Wines of Portugal and Smurfit Kappa, to help with entries to three of the categories in its 2021 competition.
You don’t have to look very far to see what a difficult time this is for so many individuals, never mind businesses, in the hospitality sector and all the companies that supply it. There is an even bigger concern that the situation is going to get a whole lot worse once the stabilsers of the furlough system are taken away in the autumn. It’s why The Buyer is today starting a new series – ‘Onwards & Upwards’ – where we give a platform to those in the restaurant, bar, wine, and drinks industries, who are looking for a fresh start, to explain who they are, their background and what sort of opportunity they are looking for. First up is Jon Clement who is looking for a new challenge on leaving his position at The Big Table Group.
Of all the new entrants into the wine sector in recent years Wanderlust Wine has stood out as it came into the industry with a new business model. One focused on a technology and distribution solution that meant from day one it could offer same, or next day delivery, for direct to consumer, the off-trade and on-trade at the same time. It’s a model that has served it well during Covid-19 with a boom in online sales, where its range of eclectic and exclusive wines from experimental winemakers around the world, have been in high demand. For our latest video interview Richard Siddle talks to its founder Richard Ellison, and its new head of trade Françoise Mathis, who left Roberson Wine last month, about what they see as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for smaller, niche importers, and how new equity funding raised during lockdown will help Wanderlust take its digital first – ‘Vintech’ – business model to the next level.
Week after week we have seen new initiatives launched by our major drinks wholesalers, and their producer partners, to help their on-trade customers, in particular, cope with the on-going fall out of Covid-19. One of the most eye catching has been the pledge by Hallgarten & Novum Wines to provide £700,000 of free glasses of wine to as many of its on-trade customers as it can during September. Here managing director, Andrew Bewes, explains how the scheme is going to work and what impact he hopes it can have on the wider hospitality sector.
The impact of Covid-19 on the way the drinks, retail and hospitality sectors does business continues to be far reaching with a host of new initiatives and ways of working. Like this new approach by Wines of Germany to help support independent wine retailers, whilst also providing a new platform to promote and distribute its wines in the UK when retail buyers are less likely to be travelling and sourcing new wines for themselves. Nicky Forrest, head of Wines of Germany in the UK, explains how its new Retailer Partnership is going to work.
History of Booze author Henry Jeffreys has made spirits his area of expertise – writing the Masters of Malt blog during the day and conducting much fastidious drinks research by night. On the eve of the publication of his latest book, The Cocktail Dictionary, he chats to Peter Dean about the effect Covid and the Low/No generation will have on cocktails, as well as why a Palmetto would be the last drink he had on earth. We also include an exclusive extract from the book on how to make an Americano.
Across the drinks and hospitality sectors we have seen so many people and businesses really step up and stand out during the Covid-19 crisis. Be it turning their business models on their head to go direct to consumer, to throwing all their resources behind keeping up with the seemingly insatiable demand from consumers to buy their wine online. But all of this would not have been possible if it was not for the efforts of London City Bond, that has literally been the glue that has kept the industry tied together during the last few unprecedented months. It’s why today The Buyer, on behalf of the wine and drinks companies it supports, ‘Raises a Glass To’ the management and team at LCB.
On the face of it sommeliers and on-trade wine buyers are not natural bedfellows to the global bulk wine market. But in reality if restaurants, bars and pubs are sourcing wines from suppliers, particularly across the major varieties such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentine Malbec, then many of them will have been shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. It’s the reason they are on people’s lists at price points that many customers are looking for. Here David Gill MW at Kingsland Drinks, one of the country’s biggest bulk suppliers, makes the case for why bulk wine is only going to become a more important part of the wines bought at all levels of the on-trade.
A company that helped the government and the NHS track the outbreak of Covid-19 across the UK has switched its digital identity and blockchain expertise to set up a new dedicated track and trace system designed specifically for restaurants, pubs and bars to securely record and store details of their customers. Ian Gass, chief executive of AGITATE, talks through how its new InkPass system is going to work and how on-trade businesses can sign up to it.
Today The Buyer, along with no doubt so many people in the drinks, hospitality and retail sectors, would like to ‘Raise a Glass To’ the on-going efforts of The Drinks Trust, and its chief executive Ross Carter, for the amazing efforts they have gone to throughout the Covid-19 crisis to provide both financial and practical support to thousands of people across our combined industries who have personally been affected by the pandemic.
For a respected wine business with as much tradition as Armit Wines, it has been a surprise to see it have five managing directors in twice the number of years, and a revolving door of talent that has come and gone over the same period. But now under the leadership of Brett Fleming, with decades of experience of working with major international wine producers across the word, it appears to be not only in safe hands, but has a chief that is clearly here for the long term. So whilst we might all now be going through a massive period of risk, upheaval and uncertainty, Armit Wines is enjoying a time of both stability and growth with a turnaround in sales and profit. In this wide ranging video interview Fleming talks to Richard Siddle about the corporate vision he has for the business and the goals he has set, but most of all he talks passionately about the culture, the mindset and the attitude of the people he wants to work with.
Paul Mabray and Polly Hammond have been banging the drum for digital and e-commerce in the wine industry for years. For much of that time they have been left frustrated by the unwillingness of so many wine companies to take online seriously. Not any more. The Covid-19 lockdown has forced consumers and drinks businesses online like never before, opening the way for Mabray and Hammond, through their respective digital businesses, Emetry and 5Forests, to be able to offer their services and work with wine producers, to act fast to try and make the most of the Covid boom in online sales. In the latest The Buyer video interview, Richard Siddle talks to them about what they actually mean by making the most of digital and how they hope to work together and combine their data analysis and brand marketing skills to offer more wine and drinks companies the advice, support and action they need.
One of the most memorable – and inspiring – aspects of the Covid-19 crisis is how individuals and businesses have responded and, in many cases, gone way beyond the norm to not just look after themselves at this time, but rather think of others and go to extraordinary lengths to help them. It’s why The Buyer has started its new ‘Raise A Glass To’ series to shine the spotlight on the people we think deserve particular praise. Today we salute the amazing efforts of Graft Wine’s Nik Darlington. Here’s why…
As the drinks supply chain looks at how it can start to bring its people back together again Richard Siddle talks to Craig Durham, head of Buckingham Schenk, about how it has managed to keep the majority of its team working through Covid-19, and how, as the UK arm of the Schenk Group, the major international producer, it has worked with the company’s teams across Europe to give its customers the best service it can and is very much on the front foot coming out of lockdown.
The opportunity to buy quality, but also value for money wines from the US has never been greater. Not only do producers have plenty of wine to sell, and an over supplied US market to trade in, they are actively looking to export. Combine that with the ambition of a major US distributor – T Edward Wines & Spirits – that also makes wines from all over the world and is actively looking to export and work in the UK, with wines at the price points buyers are looking for, then you have a very winning combination. Here’s international export sales manager, David Hautzig to explain more.
Every sector of the drinks industry has had to face up to unique challenges during the Covid-19 lockdown around the world. The worlds of PR, tastings, conferences and live events were also all thrown up in the air when we could no longer meet up face to face. Here Katie Canfield of US PR and events business, O’Donnell Lane, explains how it has quickly adapted to such an extent that is now running a wide range of conferences, webinars, tastings via Zoom, not just to its usual audience in the US, but is able to connect the industry all over the world.
It’s been fascinating to see how over the last couple of months how different business leaders across the drinks and hospitality sectors have responded to the Covid-19 crisis that has hit them all both as individuals and heads of the companies they manage. Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria&Coe, brought a fresh perspective to the situation when The Buyer interviewed him earlier this month. On the one hand he faced up to the nightmare scenario that has meant 90% of its usual revenues have been put in the deep freeze, due to the on-trade being closed, in typically bullish manner. But he also demonstrated how, as a company and as a sector, the drinks distribution network can recover, by how quickly it has turned its focus to growing the digital side of its business, through its own retail arm, Great Western Wines, and by linking up with the vast number of B2B turned B2C platforms that have emerged over the last three months.