- Published on Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:49
- Written by Gemma McKenna
In the third and final part of our 2012 review, we look at what the main generic bodies have been doing throughout the year - many have implemented changes away from their usual marketing plans; good news in the form of Harpers new awards recognising industry talent and the launch of the London 2013 business show on wine. We also consider a few high-profile departures during the year and look at how wine firms are changing how they operate to cope with declining volumes and squeezed margins.
We’ve already cast our minds back to some of the most popular stories of the year in part one of our review, including the fine wine rollercoaster, the neverending screwcap versus cork debate, what the major multiples are up to and the impact that global grape shortages will have on the UK market. Part two recalled how drinks firms are managing online marketing, the impact of the Olympics and the collapse of a number of big-name importers and wholesalers throughout the year.
Last year Wine Australia was having some difficulties satisfying all its members simultaneously - big brands felt they were being neglected by a major focus on regionality. With that in mind the body decided to change its funding model to a “pay as you go” model in order to take up a more “neutral position” and be more agile. Just today it announced it was teaming up with Tourism Australia to host a global Australian wine forum in September, which it hopes will launch a “new era” for the country’s wine.
New Zealand Winegrowers took a radical departure in March, deciding to pull out of London International Wine Fair. The European director David Cox insisted the move was no reflection of how Kiwi wines are performing in the UK, rather that producers were finding it too difficult to justify the investment. Fast-forward to July and Cox stepped down from his post as European head of the organisation and his successor, Chris Stroud, was confirmed just yesterday.
Building on the cop-operation enjoyed at ProWein, three key generic bodies - those representing South Africa, Chile and Argentina, have joined forces to hold a Beautiful South tasting, instead of having individual country tastings. Jo Wehring, market manager for WOSA, told Harpers the bodies had noticed “an undercurrent” from UK importers that they would be in favour of more collaborative working from the generic bodies, given the pressures of staffing and attending a slew of separate events. But, she added, “the idea of collaboration was about more than just saving time and money” and that it hoped to attract more European buyers.
Harpers decided it was time to recognise the industry’s finest talent at its inaugural awards ceremony. We hosted a gala evening at London’s Royal Artillery Company, which saw the UK’s Top Merchants collect gongs; the on-trade got its moment in the sun through the At Your Service awards, while drinks suppliers, multiple retailers and high street specialists picked up gold in the Industry Awards. Bibendum’s Michael Saunders scooped Harpers first Special Achievement award for the impact Bibendum has had in changing the face of the traditional wine supplier and for the honour in being the official wine and Champagne supplier for the London Olympics.
Harpers also championed the industry through its Responsibility OK campaign, Indies Suppliers initiative and Get Engaged forums, which introduced speakers from outside the wine trade on how they talk to consumers. Watch this space for developments in 2013 with our campaigns.
Meanwhile, the trade’s interest has been well and truly captured with the news that a radical new event format will kick off on September 24, 2013 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It’s designed to offer a business forum where international producers, UK agents and distributors can hold focused meetings with key buyers in a timely and cost-effective way, away from the distraction of those without buying authority.
No year would be complete without some changes at the top, and 2012 proved no exception. In August we saw the Co-operative’s long-standing wine development manager Paul Bastard step down after 20 years at the retailer while Morrisons wine development manager Arabella Woodrow MW left the supermarket following a restructure in September.
Meanwhile, Accolade Wines has witnessed a major shake-up. First off, European general manager James Lousada left back in August, to be replaced by Australian Vintage stalwart Paul Schaafsma. The Australian firm has also lost its chief executive, Troy Christensen, in recent weeks and the search continues for his successor.
Schaafsma’s move meant there was a space at the top of the Australian Vintage tree, which was soon taken by Julian Dyer, erstwhile Sainsbury’s senior buyer.
A major trend this year was the growing number of UK wine importers shaking up how they do business in order to cope with declining volumes, squeezed margins and the UK’s slip off the pedestal as the major wine market that everyone needs and wants to be in. It doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the end of this trend, so watch this space for continued diversification in 2013.
Not to sign off on a negative note - but the industry’s still stuck on the tax juggernaut of the alcohol duty escalator, which continues to be poorly relaid to the public (take a bow George Osborne). What’s more, David Cameron now believes minimum unit pricing is the way to go, and a consultation into having a 45p per unit minimum price is underway. Things aren’t getting any easier for the trade.
Onwards and upwards for 2013? Let’s hope so...