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UK wine companies must plan international expansion with care

Published:  25 March, 2013

UK wine companies looking to expand their business internationally need to be careful they do their homework first and choose the right countries to operate in.

That was one of the key messages from the large number of UK wine companies and international producers at this week's ProWein international wine conference in Düsseldorf.

Lloyd Stephens, European export director for Australian winery McWilliams, which distributes its wines through PLB in the UK, told Harpers at ProWein: "You have to look at the geography of each country and how their distribution channels work. You then need to pick which ones you want to work with and be very strategic about what wines they are looking for and what wines are right for those markets. You really need to understand the needs of each one as they are very different."

He said it was important to also choose the right partner or distributor in each country rather than try and do things on your own. "You need to work with local people, local experts who know the market and what it is looking for. And you need to listen to them."

With buyers from all the major supermarkets and buying groups across Europe and Northern America ProWein has become the central hub for many to do business.

But the experience of looking to export to China has been a strict learning curve for some wine companies, said Anya Robson, business manager of wine bulk wine broking business, Murphy Wine Company. "A couple of years ago everyone started to get very excited about the opportunities of exporting wine to China. Those opportuntities may not have been as big in reality, but what it did do is push more companies to look at developing the export side of their business and to look more at international markets."

Andrew Maidment, UK head of Wines of Argentina, said it was not jut the number of international buyers present at ProWein that made it such an important show, but the quality of people it attracts. "Our wineries are seeing their key distributors here, but also serious buyers and it is that quality of person that makes the investment to come so important."