The Buyer
Janet Harrison’s ‘A Team’ of wine talent for offering trade advice

Janet Harrison’s ‘A Team’ of wine talent for offering trade advice

When Janet Harrison launched the People’s Choice Wine Awards in 2017 she promised to bring fresh thinking to what was already a cluttered wine awards sector. By getting everyday actual wine drinkers involved in deciding which wines ended up with a medal it has lived up to its billing. Now she wants to do extend the collaborative approach of the awards to the trade with her new TAP – Trade Advisory Panel – initiative that has brought together a wide range of professional talent from all sectors of the industry who are willing to share their expertise by helping others bring new projects to life. Here’s how it is going to work.

Janet Harrison
1st July 2020by Janet Harrison
posted in Opinion,

With a little help from our friends – how Janet Harrison wants to offer help with wine industry research and marketing projects.

Why collaboration is key:

It’s not often I quote Aristotle, but in the case of TAP – our recently formed Trade Advisory Panel which has been set up to help develop and manage different industry research projects – “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. We have brought together a stellar line up of industry folk who, under normal circumstances, would be difficult to gather in one room, however due to the magic of online conferencing (how did we exist without Zoom?), this is so much easier to organise.

We are natural collaborators and see that a huge amount can be achieved by bringing together like-minded individuals to help those in the wine trade or even on the peripheries of it.

Why we set up TAP:

Janet Harrison in her other role as founder of the People’s Choice Wine Awards

Last year we were excited to be asked by Smurfit Kappa CRP to carry out a research project on bag-in-box wines as part of its involvement in The People’s Choice Wine Awards.The exercise was interesting as it didn’t just take into account things like packaging, perception and price, but we were able to assess ‘the juice’ during our 2020 awards judging sessions in November 2019.Aside from opinions (pre and post judging) from consumers and our professional judging panel, the conclusions and recommendations have since led to the beginnings of some innovative work on BIB iconography.This will go a long way to help consumers understand the real benefits of the format (of which there are many).

The project also included a focus group session, made up of ‘gatekeepers’ and consumers, to give further valuable and practical feedback on aspects of BIB, including barriers to purchase.

It was at that point, that we decided to offer this service to other companies – either as a stand-alone piece of research or as part of a sponsorship package.

Experts ‘on TAP’ – why it works:

For TAP to be effective, we needed to bring together experienced professionals who represented many different aspects of the trade – not just so the panel ‘looked good’, but to make any future projects useful, easy to implement and with valuable advice and opinions from those ‘in the know’.The full list can be seen below and include representatives from concept design, on and off-trade, independent and supermarket sectors, packaging and producers.

David Cartwright, centre left, of Seckford Wine Agencies picks up one of a number of awards its producers won at the 2020 People’s Choice Wine Awards

David Cartwright from Seckford Agencies, our ‘go to’ importer panel member puts this into his own words: “It gives me a great opportunity to work with a fascinating group of trade experts first of all. I also want to be involved with anything that’s new and innovative – and especially with the full impact of Covid-19 as yet unknown. Our industry is, thankfully, not standing still and I want to be part of anything challenging the status quo. I expect to be kept on my toes as a result!”

He adds: “It’s clear that collaboration and partnership are going to be even more important to all of us post pandemic. The phrase ‘people buy from people’ has never been more pertinent – supporting projects, ideas and people is so inspiring to me. The combination of my co TAP members will ensure anyone wishing to work with it will gain a unique insight into our industry.

Why it needs to be practical:

We’ve become known for taking ‘the stuffiness’ out of wine awards – we like to think of it as taking a practical approach and making processes, including marketing messages, easier to understand.Our focus has always been on helping producers and suppliers sell more wine.So it is really important that our projects aren’t just about ‘the numbers’ (as valuable as they can be).Statistics can easily be manipulated, but opinions, experiences and face to face reactions (even via laptop cameras) can speak volumes and are opportunities not to be missed.We like to think we put our heart, soul and personalities into each piece of work and will always be clear about the limit of our capabilities.

We like to work with people who share that ethos and George Bergier, head sommelier at The Victorian Chop House Company in Manchester is one such person.Faithfully serving the wine loving public for over 50 years, we were thrilled he joined us, albeit at the most painful time for the on-trade. Here’s why he wanted to be involved:

George Bergier hopes TAP can become as much a networking group as it is an advisory panel

“The last three months, with the most unexpected and frightening impact of Covid-19, were an enormous blow to our beloved hospitality industry, and as members of the TAP, I hope the future can be voiced by the discussions and support to and of each other. To bounce back will take us all hard work and time, but there is always a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Working together, seeking support, encouragement and advice, hopefully will benefit all and avoid disappointments of the further disappearance of many successful businesses.”

How we can help you:

We are now actively looking for projects to work on and our fantastic panel is here for you to TAP into!This could be anything from (but not limited to) trade and consumer views of packaging and labelling through to price sensitivity, brand perceptions and barriers to purchase.TAP members will be engaged in projects as and when appropriate.If, for example, a member is a competitor or a project has some sensitive issues, then the client has discretion as to which panel members are involved. A case study example from the Smurfit Kappa CRP project is available on request.

We’ve got an experienced and friendly bunch of people who are happy to help (see below).

The TAP Panel

Victoria Anderson: bringing quality wines to Booths

Supermarket: Victoria Anderson, wine buyer at Booths: Victoria is responsible for Booths entire wine category.She has regularly featured in the Top 100 Most Influential in Wine, judged internationally and has recently received a special commendation at the inaugural London Wine Fair’s Wine Buyers Award.

Design & Creative: Lee Middleton, creative director, Sense of Place: focused on brand ideas, name creation, branding, design, packaging and print as well as innovative thinking and storytelling.

Importer: David Cartwright, sales director, Seckford Agencies. David has vast experience in the wine trade (Freixinet, Moet & Chandon, Percy Fox, Diageo, HwCg) and works closely with a number of the UK’s major multiple retailers.

Independent: Hal Wilson, owner of the multi awarded Cambridge Wine Merchants: one of the largest – and most award-winning independent retailers in the UK that continues to expand and innovate.

Here Hal Wilson explains why he wants to be involved: “I want to represent and promote the independent sector as I have been for 15+ years. We may be a smallish slice of the wine pie, but we are the tastiest, full of really engaged professionals offering the best wines available on the market. The UK market is big, mature and an important one to know from the inside. This panel will help provide some insights you won’t get from other data sources and at such a critical time in the UK’s trade with the rest of the world it seems more important that ever to be able to feel the pulse of the wine trade.”

Online: Ray O’Connor, wine director of Naked Wines: Ray has a wealth of experience in wine blending, new product development and range positioning.He is responsible for recruiting winemaking talent and collaborating with them to ensure their success within Naked Wines.

The highly respected Jacob Leadley of Black Chalk

Producer: Jacob Leadley, winemaker, director and chief executive of English sparkling wine producer Black Chalk from the Test Valley. Jacob has become one of the most respected and influential winemakers in the fast growing English sparkling wine sector.

Sommelier: George Bergier, head sommelier and wine buyer for The Chop Houses Group: recognised three times for the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.With over 50 years in service, George has been listed as one of the Top 50 key influencers in the on-trade.

Restaurateur: Bonnie Yeung, marketing director for Yang Sing Chinese restaurant in Manchester.Bonnie leads the strategic marketing and development for her family’s 40-year-old iconic Manchester business which is also home for our awards judging.

Here she explains why she wants to be involved: “Growing up in a restaurateur family many of my fondest memories are framed with food, wine and conversation. The business of restaurants- and this is certainly true of Yang Sing, is not just about selling food and wine, but about making memories. I think platforms like this allow us to channel our passions, and experiences of memory making to share with others.”

She adds: “I come across wine drinkers of every level and from all walks of life and it is vitally important that the industry reflects the diverse and changing face of the wine consumer. While there are women in wine with more visibility at every level there is a lack of ethnically and culturally diverse voices within the ranks of the wine world. I have long loved wine and I suspect many of my BAME peers have as well and we need to better understand these consumers- diversity is good for business.”

Boutique Bulk and Supply Chain: Mark Roberts, director of sales at Lanchester Wines: Mark has 20 years’ experience in the wine industry and has been central to the ongoing premiumisation strategy of wine development at Lanchester Wines and building its supply to the independent off-trade as well as working with major operators in the on-trade and multiple retailing.

Judy Kendrick, co-director and founder of JK Marketing: Judy has been behind a number of major wine projects from the SITT tasting to her breakthrough initiative, Wines Unearthed, establishing routes to market for independent producers at the London Wine Fair. She has over 30 years’ experience in the wine trade, originally as a wine importer, and is now a co-partner in the People’s Choice Wine Awards.

She says: “I’ve been involved in research projects in a previous business and really enjoyed delving into companies’ conundrums and finding solutions and opportunities for them once the research was concluded.With the backing of our TAP panel, we will be able to offer very interesting insights to any projects.We are looking forward to getting stuck in!”

If you would like to find out more, or have a project that you would like the advice of the new TAP panel then please contact Janet Harrison at