Swindon and its environs have several claims to fame, from yielding James Bond creator Sir Ian Fleming to creating what is surely the world’s most complex roundabout.
When overworked news editors have a gaping hole in their papers, they can always rely on the anti-alcohol lobby to supply a scare story about the nation’s drink problem.
There’s a picture of the playwright Robert Bolt above the bar at Cork of the North, a hybrid-style wine merchant in Sale, on the south of Manchester.
Collaboration is a hot topic among independent wine merchants as they bid to increase margins, overcome barriers to trade and fend off the multiples. We caught up with Tim Carlisle, new business manager at Vindependents – an agency owned by and solely catering to indies – to explore the pros and cons of working collegiately.
It has become accepted wisdom that the male of the species needs a space of his own to escape the pressures of family life.
When Donald Trump licenced his name to a US vodka brand in 2005, it seemed like a drinks category that could do no wrong. That was back when the idea of Trump becoming president seemed as likely as the Pope announcing his engagement to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spirits industry’s star category provided the teetotal entrepreneur with a more credible roadmap towards world domination.
Mike James is the driving force behind an Aldi wine range that punches well above its weight when it comes to winning awards, earning column inches and growing retail sales. He has a strong track record of making shrewd decisions, exhibiting flair and dynamism in his buying choices and helping to shape the nation’s drinking habits. It has made him a serial number one on DRN’s Most Influential People in Wine list and earned him a reputation as one of the country’s most skilfull buyers.
In 1780 the good folk living along London’s Old Broad Street were abuzz with the news that a new wine merchant was opening on their doorstep. Edward Bland Corney’s shop sold only a limited range of port, sherry and Bordeaux, but it flourished and evolved into Corney & Barrow, one of the great names on the London wine scene. The old store is now consigned to the history books, but in 2018 the firm boasts thriving sales to private clients and a range of on-trade accounts, with a turnover of £60 million and offices in London, Newmarket, North Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Ayr, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Last month DRN surveyed 400 readers on what they considered the greatest threats to the future health of the drinks industry and the anti-alcohol lobby came second.
Georgia has been revealed as the birthplace of wine by an international team of scientists that found evidence of viticultural processes dating back to 6,000BC.
The campaigner who exposed Public Health England for massaging evidence to push through a reduction in UK alcohol guidelines has told DRN he believes such skulduggery is “endemic”. In January 2016, the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, cut drinking guidelines for men from 21 units a week to 14, bringing them in line with women, and declared there is no safe level of drinking. To justify this move she cited evidence from a Sheffield Alcohol Research Group report. The report’s authors essentially recommended a lowering of drinking guidelines based on an assessment of the potential harm of low-level consumption.
There has never been a more exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs to break into the burgeoning British beer scene as the nation’s love of craft brews shows no signs of abating. Drinkers are more experimental than ever and desperate to try quirky new beers that can demonstrate provenance and heritage. But two obvious challenges arise for newcomers to the market.
In the mid-2000s the Hunter Valley was home to some of Australia’s most successful volume brands, from Tyrrell’s Long Flat to Mount Pleasant’s Elizabeth. The region’s winemakers were raking in orders from around the world and enjoying huge growth as a result, but they were not particularly happy.
After witnessing the advent of baobab gin, hop gin, cocoa gin, gin with ants in it, nettle gin and seaweed gin, you could be forgiven for thinking the flavour conveyor belt had run out of options. You would be wrong.
Over in Ireland a 300-strong group of independent off-licence owners has aligned itself with the health lobby in a bid to prevent supermarkets wiping them out.
Surely “no/low-alcohol drinks” would be at the front of the queue if ever a category were in need of a sexier name. But this compilation of drinks – which includes lower or alcohol- free variants of cider, beer, wine and even spirits – has attracted considerably more interest lately.
It’s the time of year when Halloween paraphernalia masks the fact that retailers are already in full Christmas mode, yet we know that the pumpkins on shelf will soon magically transform into festive delights.
People are now discovering and making innovative ciders all around the world and here in Britain fans are keen to reinstate this country’s position as one of the leaders of the category. This year annual cider sales rose to a three year high, topping the £1 billion mark for the first time since 2014.
“What’s the difference between an English wine merchant and a terrorist?” says Australian Vintage’s award-winning winemaker, Peter Hall. “You can negotiate with a terrorist.”
In the uncertain political and economic times created by Brexit, Chile looks like a wine- supplying country that could bring a bit of reassurance and calm to the market.
In the heart of cava country a once-loved grape variety that nearly went the way of the dodo is enjoying a remarkable renaissance. Sumoll, known locally as the Pinot Noir of the Mediterranean due to its thin skin and diva-like antics on the
Brexit dominated discussions at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association's annual conference, which took place 12 September. At the event key speakers were brought together to discuss implications for the drinks trade:
A focus on local ales, craft beer and mini-kegs has seen Morrisons’ beer category outperform the market and post 4.5% year-on- year sales growth. DRN travelled to Yorkshire to meet the buyers, John Morris and James French, and get the lowdown on the success the retailer has enjoyed after a sweeping range review.
Plastic has conquered the world. From manufacturing to retail, its presence is felt in virtually every stage of the supply chain. The soft drinks industry has been particularly quick on the uptake, with plastic bottles the pack solution of choice for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Celebrating the record of the business community on gender equality can be a trying endeavour as women are still massively under-represented in boardrooms. Female chief execs run just 7% of FTSE 100 companies and that percentage drops for the FTSE 250. Women account for a quarter of seats on FTSE 100 boards, but the increase has mainly been among non-executives who do not have their fingers on the buttons that matter. The notion that middle-aged, rich, white men run the show is impossible to ignore, and the issue has tongues wagging again after the BBC published details of its highest earners and revealed that two-thirds of top earners are male.
South Africa secured a resounding victory when DRN recently polled 200 independent merchants in a bid to find which countries’ wines are performing best in the sector. It finished ahead of Italy, Argentina and Spain as the country growing sales in the strongest fashion and it is easy to see why. Quality has improved drastically in recent years. Classics from well-established regions are winning plaudits, a dynamic new wave of winemakers is pushing boundaries and producing intriguing offerings and at the very top end scores from critics speak for themselves.
On the surface it looks as though cider is struggling, with sales down 3% in the past year (Nielsen, year to January 2015), but scratch away a little bit an you will find plenty of reason for encouragement. While mainstream brands like Stella Artois Cidre and Magners are tanking, arguably the two most important sectors of the market are thriving. Fruit cider is going great guns, with sales up 11%. This is crucial because fruit cider is a hotbed of innovation that has been incredibly successful at winning over young adults and the term “cider” a lot more friendly for millions of consumers.
What was once regarded as a small sub-category of wine can now be seen as a thriving category in its own right. Retailers are still a little unsure about where these products should sit in BWS, but many are seeing strong sales and have been willing to experiment with merchandising, and this is one of the subjects we examine in detail in this supplement.
It sometimes seems like the whole brewing industry has gone daft for craft. The redrawn landscape of the British brewing industry has led many of the more established family-owned producers to rethink their approaches to the market.
The UK cocktail culture is booming, according to industry experts, and a wider range of on-trade outlets than ever are upping their game with exotic mixed drinks. The challenge for retailers is to replicate this in the off-trade, according to Hi-Spirits managing director Dan Bolton.
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