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2015 year in review and hopes and fears for 2016: Dan Townsend, Treasury Wine Estates

Published:  29 December, 2015

Dan Townsend, general manager of Europe for Treasury Wine Estates, saw 2015 as very strong year at TWE and thinks that the reverse takeover of Matthew Clark by Conviviality "has the potential to be a real game changer in terms of the UK trading landscape." Townsend is most excited about the opportunities that lay ahead in 2016, but sees Duty as one of the toughest challenges that trade faces next year.

How was 2015 for you and your business?

Treasury Wine Estates has enjoyed a very strong year globally - from our standout full year F15 results to the fantastic global Penfolds Collection launch in Shanghai.

Closer to home we have made great headway. Our Wolf Blass Ltd Edition Rugby promotion for Yellow Label was a huge success, one of the best promotions we have ever run in the UK off-trade, while the Penfolds Collection EMEA launch event in Somerset House is already regarded as one of the best we've ever done.

Added to this we have seen some excellent incremental listings in retail for both core brands like Lindeman's Bins and Wolf Blass Yellow Label, as well as for some of our fabulous NPD in the form of the Male Millennial wines brands: 19 Crimes and Lindeman's Gentleman's Collection.

What do you think were the most significant things that happened or issues and trends that occurred in 2015?

Getting a duty freeze at the 2015 Budget was a big moment. While it was disappointing not to get a cut, as spirits and beer did, it nonetheless showed that government is starting to get the message about the importance of the UK wine industry; the value it adds to the economy and that it should be encouraging growth, rather than stifling it through relentless tax increases.

Consolidation within the industry has also been very significant. I think the Conviviality deal to buy Matthew Clark has the potential to be a real game changer in terms of the UK trading landscape and a blurring of the lines between on and off-trade. I'm fascinated to see how this will evolve.

What opportunities are you most looking forward to working on in 2016?

I am really looking forward to using the breadth of our portfolio to work even closer with our retail and wholesale partners, across the on and off-trade to ensure that we make the wine category exciting and even more relevant to consumers. From commercial branded wine all the way through to premium, we are focussing on building great and relevant brands, from £5 a bottle to £50, and beyond - it's a category approach that doesn't just focus on a narrow price range.

Additionally as I start my second year as Chairman of the Benevolent, working with David Cox and his fantastic committed team to generate even more awareness and support within the trade for the great work that they do.

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2016?

The first challenge is undoubtedly duty. It was great to get a first freeze in nearly 30 years back in March - but we need to keep this momentum going. Wine has been harshly penalised in recent years compared to beer and spirits and it is up to us as an industry to challenge government on this. To engage them and demonstrate why this is an industry that positively benefits the economy.

The other key challenge is consolidation of ranges on shelf in retail. The more this is done, the more that branded suppliers need to make sure their brands actually stand for something. To win the race for this limited space your brand has to be more than just a "me too". And right now there are so many "me toos" around, with no obvious point of difference - which leads to consumer confusion.

Who are the people, companies and retailers to watch in 2016?

Taking my TWE hat off, from a purely personal perspective and as someone who genuinely likes to support local business, I am thrilled to see English wine blossoming and getting its due recognition. I think we could see some fascinating things from the more inventive and smart English wineries in the future.

What are you doing for Christmas and New Year?

For the first time in a decade, I'm taking the whole time off from Christmas Eve until New Year and can't wait!  With my two boys just back from their respective universities, I'm looking forward to Christmas at home with the family, then down to Cornwall for a few days, and being joined by friends there for New Year. I am debating whether I should join the locals for the traditional New Year's Day dip in the sea or not - I suspect a sudden cold snap over the next week may make my decision for me!

What will be your favourite tipple over Christmas and New Year?

A glass of Wolf Blass Gold Label Barossa Shiraz around the patio heater overlooking the harbour lights in Looe, and seeing the New Year in with a bottle of local producer Camel Valley's fabulous sparkling rose.

Favourite Christmas film?

Notting Hill is a brilliant film at any time of year - there is a flurry of snow in one scene in it so it has to qualify as a Christmas film! But if you want me to be strictly festive - Bad Santa.

Ideal day out over Christmas period?

A long walk along the South Cornwall coastal path winding up at the Blue Peter pub at Polperro for a bowl of their amazing Bouillabaisse and a pint of Guinness.

What do you want most from Father Christmas? 

A pair of walking boots that won' t separate me from half of my toenails next time I do a long charity walk for the Benevolent! That and continued good fortune for my Fantasy Football team, given that my real one (Man U) are not bringing me much joy this season.

New Year's resolution?

To train properly for the 100km walk that my daughter has convinced me to do with her next September. It seems that 50 km just wasn't enough!