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Richard Siddle: why UK wine companies need to look to export markets for growth

Published:  11 December, 2012

If there was a documentary covering the main events in the UK wine trade in the last 12 months it might not be as fun to watch as the highlights of London 12 but it would be just as eventful.

Sadly, for many, there would be more lows than highs. The economic crisis that has gripped the country for the last three years hit the UK wine trade with both barrels in the last 12 months. Most strikingly we have seen the collapse of some of our biggest names, with D&D wines and WaverleyTBS going to the wall completely, and Stratfords and Thierry's being brought back to life in new forms.

All around us large drinks companies are making cutbacks to ensure they don't suffer a similar fate.

What's more we ain't seen anything yet. In a major interview in this week's issue of Harpers, Tesco's Dan Jago, warns the industry needs to wake up and understand the "seismic changes" taking place not only in the UK but the global drinks market.

Jago should know as his own role is changing in light of the new world we live in. He is taking on more international responsibilities to help make Tesco's wine offer as relevant and attractive to a Korean shopper as it is to one in Bognor Regis.

The UK, crucially, is no longer his main focus.

The international route is one many in the UK wine and spirits trade are taking. More UK companies are looking to use their expertise, sharpened in the cut throat domestic market, to build extensive export businesses. Not only are they spreading commercial risks they are making themselves stronger at home which can only be good news for the UK industry as a whole.

What's more wineries and producers are looking to work with export partners with the skills and credibility to build their businesses in multiple countries around the world. Whilst the UK may be seen as a difficult place to trade, UK wine businesses are regarded as the most professional and efficient in the world. They have to be in order to be able to tread water in the cut throat UK market. Hence working with them to build their international profile makes perfect sense.

We have talked a lot about the need for everyone in the drinks trade to re-assess what they are doing to fully engage with their customers and ultimately consumers. But crucially those customers and consumers could easily now be in Mumbai, Shanghai or Wolverhampton.