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KWV relaunches UK distribution strategy by switching from Myliko Wines to Bottle Green

Published:  22 September, 2014

KWV, the South African wine giant, is to switch its UK distribution from Myliko Wines to Bottle Green as it looks to reposition itself in the UK with a targeted multiple and independent retail strategy.

KWV, the South African wine giant, is to switch its UK distribution from Myliko Wines to Bottle  Green as it looks to reposition itself in the UK with a targeted multiple and independent retail strategy.

The move follows both a strategic review and management reshuffle of KWV that it hopes will ultimately help it re-build its distribution and reputation in the UK.

By its own admission KWV needs to work in the UK with a "radically new mindset" and has appointed Bottle Green to help it gain vital distribution across its key target markets.

De Bruyn Steenkamp, KWV's commercial director, told it had been working hard to adapt its wines to suit not only the needs of the UK market, but with a channel management strategy that clearly identifies which wines in its portfolio it will be targeting both the multiple and independent sectors. It has been working with UK wine consultant, and former Somerfield head of wine, Angela Mount, on blending wines for the British market and getting its channel management strategy right.

By so doing KWV has ambitious plans to "take a share of the growing South African category".

But he also conceded it needed to do so with the right level of "humbleness" and "less arrogant" approach that it might have been guilty of in previous years and under different management.

He also admitted it had a lot of catching up to do and needs to first win over a UK wine trade that has not been best served by a company that has changed its business strategy for operating in the UK. It is, for example, now quite happy to work with British supermarkets having pulled its wines out five years ago. 

De Bruyn Steenkamp, KWV's commercial director who is heading up its export plans, admitted there were "some dubious decisions made" by previous management teams. "We have to start again. This is a whole new ball game," he told "But we are a sleeping giant." 

He added: "Historically KWV has not been successful in the UK over the last 20 years, but the company has always had great heritage and brands."

He insisted the company, supported by new majority shareholder, HCI, one of South Africa's biggest investments bodies,  new chief executive, Andre Van Der Veen, and  "completely new management team," was very "ambitious" and "passionate" about its plans for the UK. 

Appointing Bottle Green was essential to its UK plans, he added: "We now need a strong commercial partner as a springboard to both trade and consumer. We believe Bottle Green's vision, skill set and drive make for a good alignment and chemistry and we are ready to go."

He told "We have not got a lot of the pieces of the puzzle together."

In particular, it will be working hard to ensure it has the right "channel management" strategy for each of its brands in the UK markets, said Steenkamp. "That way we can focus on the right brands for the right channel."

Jon Eagle, Bottle Green's managing director, said of the the new distribution agreement. "From our first tasting with the new KWV management team, we have been immensely impressed by their wines,  their aims and ambition. It is clear they have a quality focused, progressive and thoroughly capable business with a strong desire to build a sizeable and sustainable business in the UK market."

He added: "'I believe many who knew the KWV of old will be very surprised by where they are now."

But the move also means splitting its business away from Myliko Wines which only took on the account in 2012. De Bruyn added: "I want to thank Myliko for their loyalty and commitment to our brands over the past two years."

KWV now hopes to use its scale - it has the capacity to produce some 72 million bottles a  year  - to drive real growth in the UK and help the overall South African wine category.

"The South African category needs a prominent branded player that has the sales and willingess to invest in," he told

 "The UK is South Africa's biggest export market and one in which KWV is determined to succeed. Our ambition is to be the reference South African wine and spirits company as there are clear gaps on the branded retail front. South Africa lacks strong global, premium wine brands, and we believe we can play an integral role in filling this gap in the market."

"But we also have to over deliver on quality," he said.