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.
There are not many people in the drinks industry who are at their happiest when they have their head down drilling through the latest Kantar or Nielsen consumer trends research. But Neil Anderson is very much one of them. Yes, he loves his wines, spirits and beers and all the stories behind them, but it’s what makes consumers tick that really gets Anderson excited and passionate about his role as retailer brands marketing director at Quintessential Brands.
Simon Taylor is now in a position to look back on the last three months of lockdown with a sense of satisfaction that he had a business model in place that allowed Stone Vine & Sun to switch from being an on-trade wholesaler and wine merchants to becoming a 100% e-commerce and delivery company. Its already strong online sales have proved to be its saviour as it has kept its local customers happy, but also gained many more from right around the country.
Spending any time with Oz Clarke is valuable, but being able to share an hour on Zoom chatting about our respective lives in lockdown before diving into the new book he has written on English wine was particularly special. In this wide ranging conversation we also talk about what motivates him still to discover new wine regions, different producers and their wines, and then have the energy to write about them all. Most of all, though, as we move into English Wine Week, it shows the love and passion he has for English wine and how much he has enjoyed being able to tell the stories about the people as much as the individual wines that are now becoming the envy of so much of the rest of the world.
Being in charge of a national drinks distributor over the last three months must be like trying to steer a container ship through a combination of out of control storms one minute, and perfect sailing conditions the next. For whilst the on-trade side of your business is causing nothing but stress and sleepless nights, your retail division has never done better. That’s very much the split world that Andrew Bewes has been trying to guide Hallgarten & Novum Wines through over the last few weeks. In The Buyer’s latest video interview with key figures in the drinks and hospitality sectors, Richard Siddle talks to Bewes about how the business has been able to adapt and respond to the Covid-19 lockdown, and what he sees as being the main challenges – and opportunities – in the months ahead.
As the clock ticks down to July 4 and the date when the on-trade can officially re-open and welcome guests back into pubs, bars and restaurants, operators are going to need all the help they can get to do so safely and in a way that potential customers feel comfortable with. At the start of the lockdown C&C, owners of drinks distributors Bibendum and Matthew Clark, released an app – Local – designed to help any on-trade business doing delivery or collection. It is now ready to help them re-open by also becoming a contactless payment and ordering solution too. James Scott, C&C’s group insights director, explains what difference it can make.
As we continue our new ways of working in lockdown The Buyer has decided to get as face to face as we can in the coming weeks with a series of interviews with key figures across the drinks, hospitality and retail sectors. First up Richard Siddle has a chat with Jason Haynes, co-founder of wine importer Flint Wines that has been able to keep its sales strong over the last three months, thanks to its multi-channel strategy. Here’s the full video of what he had to say.
We have been spoilt for choice over the last three months with the number of new ideas and innovations that have been introduced in response to Covid-19. Here David Rowledge, founder of Alchemy Wines, talks to Richard Siddle about a new community drinks brand that he believes has the potential to work across all drinks categories from wine, beers, spirits to soft drinks and water and raise money for drinks charities both during the crisis and for the long term.
For most of us 2020 will go down in history as our annus horribilis. For Bernard Retornaz, who has been heading up Louis Latour’s operation in California for almost three decades, this year is one he really wants to see the back of. Quite apart from Covid which has hit 48% of his business, Trump’s tariffs on French wine have meant price hikes of 30-34%. Then there are the differing lockdown-easing scenarios which means it is like doing business with 50 different countries. In a sobering and insightful discussion, Retornaz tells David Kermode how he has boxed clever this year, unable to deal direct with the consumer and seeing a future where he predicts 30-40% of the on-trade will not reopen.
Whatever social distancing rules are put in place, bars, pubs and restaurants won’t be able to return unless they have a contactless ordering and payment process in place that consumers can understand and easily use. The founders of Mimu believe they have not only got that, but can offer so much more by providing drinks brands and on-trade operators data and insights not available to them before by analysing what customers are buying, when, and what persuades them to change drink and food choices. The app is already proving a success in Australia and now hopes to find drinks and on-trade partners to work with in the UK, says founder Andrew Jones.
You might not know Wine Owners, but you will be familiar with all the prestigious wine names, merchants and fine wine brokers that it works with, beavering away behind the scenes providing the type of software and the management systems that have quietly, but crucially had a near revolutionary impact on how fine wine can now be traded instantaneously between companies and customers anywhere in the world. Nick Martin, co-founder of Wine Owners, explains what it is actually doing behind those scenes and what potential businesses benefits, synergies and efficiencies it can bring any wine business.
The last two months has seen a whole range of businesses from across the drinks and hospitality sectors having to rip up what were successful business models to find new ways just to trade and stay in business. For some drinks suppliers that relied 100% on the on-trade for its sales it has meant transforming themselves into completely different companies overnight. Like Jascots Wine Merchants. But before we get into the ins and outs of how and why Jascots has become an online direct to consumer operator during Covid-19, its managing partner, Miles MacInnes, is keen to stress this is a move it had to take in order to return at full strength as a key London on-trade supplier once restaurants start to re-open. Its new e-commerce arm, he says, can only make it a stronger, better and more efficient on-trade supplier in the future.
There are many weird and wonderful ways that people get into the wine and drinks industry but being a specialist in radiochemistry for medical imaging research must be somewhat different. But it seems there is only so much radiochemistry you can take and Sam Hill was more than happy to combine his day job learning about wine doing WSET courses, before deciding to throw himself into a MSc course in viticulture and oenology at Plumpton College. Now he is ready to use all his skills and experience and find a career in the wine and drinks industry.
The wine trade’s very own wine buying super hero Felix Hart is back. Yes, the alter ego of the mysterious, fictitious Peter Stafford-Bow has returned for his third adventure following the success of the debut novel, Corkscrew, and the follow up, Brut Force. Now the story switches to South Africa where Hart has found himself in very hot waters indeed, forced to go undercover to protect himself. Here’s an extract just to get you all excited ahead of its publication on June 1.
When James Thomas left the reasonably safe world of working for a major Champagne house in 2017, he certainly dived into the deep end starting up his own specialist wine importer business focused on supplying niche, minimum intervention wines for the discerning on-trade. Three years on and everything was starting to come together with a good, solid and loyal customer base. And then came Covid-19. Two months later he has been able to change his business into a 100% online and delivery wine retailer. Here he explains how.
Whatever you are doing at the moment, the chances are Tim Wildman MW is somewhere, filming himself talking about wine. Well, perhaps not ‘somewhere’ at the moment, other than his home, but in normal circumstances he is travelling the world, either making his own wine in the McLaren Vale, Australia, or filming yet another module of fun, but also super geeky content for Master of Wine students covering every bit of their MW syllabus as part of his WineTutor.tv channel. Playing a crucial role in potentially helping the next generation of students pass the notoriously difficult exam. Here he talks to Richard Siddle about what he has been able to do in lockdown and how WineTutor.tv has really come into its own at this time.
Anyone who knows anything about the Lanchester Group, which includes the wine bottling business, Greencroft Bottling and wine merchant Lanchester Wines, will not be surprised it has been all hands to the helm with staff moving, where necessary, between teams and divisions in order to keep the whole company going and helping out where it is most needed.
If you could create a trading model that is perfect for lockdown we are all living through, then Naked Wines would be a pretty good platform to come up with. It’s online for a start. But it also has a corporate philosophy that is very much in keeping with the times. Doing what it can to help its customers support the winemakers they choose to buy wine from. Eamon FitzGerald, its global wine director, talks to Richard Siddle about how it is responding to the challenge of Covid-19.
Coralie Strong is clearly not scared of the sight of a text book. After spending three years doing her degree at Leeds University (and a few WSET exams along the way) she then embarked on a MSc Viticiulture and Oenology course at Plumpton College. Having just completed that she’s now all set to embark on trying to do the MW examination. Here she talks to The Buyer about why she is so focused on a career in wine, and how she is also enjoying running her own blog – Every Glass Matters – as she looks at what her next steps might be.