Having worked for Corney & Barrow for 24 years it’s fair to say Chris Hodgson knows everything there is to know about selling wines into the premium on and off-trades. But as sales director of Corney & Barrow’s separate Scottish and north of England division, he, and his team, also need to be on top of what their restaurant, bar and private customers will be looking for next. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about the changes he has seen in the Scottish and north of England’s on-trade and private client scene over the last two plus decades and how having a dedicated Scottish and northern team has been crucial in how Corney & Barrow has been able to serve and build such long standing relationships across its thriving restaurant, bar and private customer sectors.
Start-up wine importer business, Vida Wines & Spirits, has a very clear mission. To showcase lesser-known wines, producers and winemakers from countries across Central and Eastern Europe. With interest in the new, unusual and different at an all time high it arguably could not have chosen a better year to launch. Here breakthrough wine writer Natalie Wilson talks to Olivier Freymuth, Vida’s wine buyer and head of UK sales, about how it has built up a portfolio of wines it believes can start to fill a big gap in the UK wine market. Vida’s Olivier Freymuth explains what it is about wines from Bulgaria and Slovenia that excite him over wines from the all too familiar Old and New Worlds.
Throughout the pandemic so-called “key workers” were both allowed, and expected, to work by the government throughout all the national lockdowns. When it came to keeping the UK – and international – wine and spirits sectors going over the last two years then the team at Kingsland Drinks Group certainly fell into the “key” category as it kept all its operations going, buying, importing, bottling and then distributing millions of litres of wine and spirits to its customers in all channels of the market. Here Richard Siddle sits down with Kingsland’s managing director, Ed Baker, to talk through all the various services it now offers the trade, and its ambitious plans for the future to be regarded as the UK’s most forward thinking and innovative category solutions supplier for the global drinks industry.
Tenacity, ambition, sales and wine combine to give us Kim Wilson, managing director of North South Wines, one of the fastest growing wine distribution businesses in the UK, which is as comfortable dealing with contracts for the major multiples as it is working on bespoke projects for independent wine merchants. A company that has the backing and support of its producer partners and investors, De Bortoli Wines, the Wine People and Reh Kenderman, and has many goals still to achieve as Wilson explains to The Buyer.
Selling wines and spirits in China and across Asia is not the great unknown as it was say 10 to 15 years ago when few brands had any idea where their products were being sold. But China and Asia are still highly complex markets with each country, region, state and city needing specialist help to make sure your drinks have a realistic chance of success. Which is the exact role that Nimbility claims to offer, with expert help on the ground and insiders’ knowledge of how to make the most of the opportunity for your brands in these still emerging markets. Richard Siddle talks to two of Nimbility’s three founding directors, Francesca Martin and Polly Aylwin-Foster, to find out exactly how it works.
When The Buyer first profiled Richard Ellison in 2017 about his new wine business Wanderlust Wine his goal was to try and do something that traditional wine merchants can’t or don’t want to do – which is to sell interesting wines direct to both consumers and the on and off-trades at the same time. A new trading model that was made possible by a mysterious, bespoke IT system that, he claimed, could simultaneously service different channels of the trade with minimal staff. So how has he got on? Richard Siddle caught up with Richard Ellison to find out.
This is potentially the first time you have had chance to read a comprehensive, behind the scenes, analysis of Speciality Brands. For up to now managing director, Chris Seale, has been very much of the opinion that he would much rather shine the light on the portfolio of premium spirits brands that have made the company one of the most respected and important drinks suppliers in the UK. Here, though, he is prepared to talk about what makes Speciality Brands, well, so special and what key strategic changes it is making to ensure it continues to provide some of the most innovative and in demand drinks brands in the premium on-trade and specialist retail sectors.
Mentzendorff’s long term UK multi-channel sales and distribution approach has really come to the fore over the last 18 months as it has been able to work with its customers across the premium on and off-trade and specialist routes to market. Here Andrew Hawes, managing director of the UK business, looks back on what has been such a fast moving, turbulent time in its history, and reflects on the steps it has taken to keep one step ahead of the supply chain and sourcing issues to ensure it had the most relevant range available for its wide customer base.
Despite the part Covid-19 lockdown in Amsterdam, wine buyers and producers from around the world will be chomping at the bit to get back to doing business face to face – albeit behind a protective mask – next week at the World Bulk Wine Exhibition. None more so than Mark Roberts, director of sales at Lanchester Wines and Andrew Porton, co-founder of The Wine Fusion, who will also be taking part in the extensive conference programme. Here they examine the pressures, challenges and opportunities facing buyers looking to source wines for 2022.
The Craft Drink Co does what it says on the tin. A business set up to help promote and sell craft drinks, primarily across the west, south and central England. Founded by Richard Chamberlain it now has around 160 craft drinks products in its portfolio across all the major drinks categories, from soft drinks, beers, ciders, wines, to spirits, and is looking to widen its net into the north of the country. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about what makes one craft drink stand out from another.
James Simpson MW has the sort of bright, upbeat, friendly personality that makes him an ideal person to lead a business through what has arguably – even by the wine industry’s standards – been as big a rollercoaster period of trading that we can remember. After spending 90 minutes or so in his company you feel like jumping up and taking on the world. Which is very much what the UK’s Pol Roger Portfolio team has been doing over the last 18 months, looking to help its customers across all channels either make the most of, or simply get through, this tumultuous time. Richard Siddle reports back from the Pol Roger Portfolio front line.
You can have the highest scoring, most awarded wine list in the country, but if you don’t have the sales team with the skills to build relationships and understand which wines are best suited to which restaurants and bars then it’s going to gather dust in your warehouse. Here we talk to Maria Proshuta, part of the London on-trade sales team for Corney & Barrow, about the skills she thinks you need to sell wine to the on-trade.
“Barley forward, Téireoir-driven whisky” is not your usual descriptor you come across on a bottle of premium whisky, but it also stands more as a mission statement, or a way of life for the whisky team at Waterford, one of the mostly highly regarded of the growing number of elite Irish distillers that are shaking up not only the Irish spirits market but premium whisky as a whole. Richard Siddle talks to its charismatic head distiller, Ned Gahan, about exactly what it means by “téireoir-driven whisky”.
This week we shine the spotlight on Mags Jango, founder of wine distribution business, MJ Wine Cellars, and look at his career in the wine industry, taking a lead role on promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector and his response to winning the Master of Wine scholarship in the new Golden Vines scholarships initiative for BAME and BIPOC students awarded as part of the Gerard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation in partnership with Liquid Icons.
The standards and competition between national drinks and wine distributors in the UK is arguably the highest in the world. Each one can point to their own wall of trophies and awards, so how as a sommelier and premium on-trade buyer do you decide which one is right for you? Well, that ultimately comes down to the people that are the real DNA of how these companies work. Here The Buyer goes behind the scenes at Alliance Wine to talk to its senior on-trade sales team to find out how they work, build relationships with customers and what it is they think they do that makes them stand out from the rest.
“We have had an exciting 12 months and been able to launch a whole number of concepts into the market,” is how David Rowledge, owner of Alchemy Wines, looks back at what he says has undoubtedly been the busiest and arguably the most rewarding year of his career in the wine and drinks industry, which has culminated in the community.co charity drinks range and a new wine brand with former England cricketer Phil Tufnell.
Nika Tiki is a Lanchester Wines best-seller, a flagship Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that’s a firm favourite with the on-trade and its customers. So Lanchester’s director of purchasing, Lesley Cook, was facing a potential crisis when it became apparent that Marlborough’s 2021 vintage was going to have incredibly small yields. To make matters worse, such was the popularity of the previous vintage that there was nothing left from 2020. Add in a sharp increase in shipping costs and it looked like the perfect storm. Here, Cook tells David Kermode how she needed to work fast, to secure an alternative supply from South Africa, creating a new wine, Moloko Bay, that replicates the characteristics of Nika Tiki, without replacing it.
Trying to cope with the symptoms of Long COVID and the restrictions on international travel have made life tough for Steve Daniel, Hallgarten’s head of buying. In a candid interview he explains how he has managed, adding two new estates to his Greek wine portfolio, both from islands he has not sourced wine from before – Ios and Kefalonia, which the smart money predicts will be the ‘new Santorini’. So what is it about Greek wine that has continually fascinated him? From championing it back in his Oddbins days to the present, where the world has finally woken up it seems to what the country has to offer.
The conundrum facing many drinks brands is whether or not to use social media influencers in your marketing – and if you do, who are the most, well, influential to use for your products? It’s not a problem, however, for Katherine Jones. Not only does she run her own successful influencer marketing business – generating over £20m in sales for brands in only four years – she is using her influencers to help promote her new low sugar, vegan Prosecco brand, ThinK Wine, as she explains to Richard Siddle.
To help increase diversity within the drinks industry, Distill Ventures, the brand development and start up investment arm of Diageo, is launching what it is calling a new ‘Pre-Accelerator Programme’ dedicated to early stage founders from underrepresented groups that often are overlooked for corporate funding and private investment. It is pledging to invest $5 million in drinks entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds over the next 12 months. Here Distill Ventures’ portfolio director, Ara Carvallo, explains how the scheme is going to work and how it is part of its overall commitment to drive diversity and inclusion.