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Spotlight on 2020: Michael Saunders, Bibendum Wine

Published:  04 December, 2019

As we prepare for the new decade, Harpers will be taking the month of December to look back over 2019 and ahead to what the coming year will bring – hopefully full of revived optimism for both politics and the trade.

Here, we kick off our winter series of reflections, predictions and views with Michael Saunders, CEO of Bibendum Wine.

1. What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2019?

Returning the business to stability and growth has certainly meant that the last year has been one of the most rewarding of my career. Having such fantastic support from staff, producers and customers, as well as much of the trade, has been an incredible high for me. Being able to focus on what we’re great at has also been a huge positive for the business this year.

2. What were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2019?

Unfortunately I can’t talk about 2019 without mentioning Brexit. This has dominated not just the wine trade, but pretty much every business in 2019. The instability has meant we have had to put a lot of time and resource into planning and ensuring we are ready to mitigate any effect on our customers and producers. Luckily, with strong backing from the C&C group, we have been able to do this.

3. What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see?

Certainty – whatever the outcome. We can then get on and plan around that.

4. What trends do you predict for 2020?

We’re going to see low and no ramp up even more in 2020; and I think the hard seltzer trend from across the pond is something we should expect to hit the mainstream here in the UK. An ever greater importance placed on environmental issues will also dominate the trade next year and rightly so.

5. What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2020?

Building on my point above, the opportunity for the trade to really tackle environmental issues is huge, especially given the trend for wine in a can and the growth in organic and biodynamic wines; as well as a greater expectation from consumers for both products and businesses to become more sustainable. This is something we will be focusing on even more in 2020.

6. What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

Again, I hate to mention the ‘B’ word, but Brexit will be a challenge for every business in the UK, especially with any element of uncertainty that effects consumers. We also have to contend with a probable review of duty: DRS and MUP. Luckily we have a great trade association to hold our collective hands through the years ahead!

7. Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2020?

We hope to show a clean pair of heels to our peers! I’d like to see even more young people emerge into positions of authority to keep old folk like me on our toes. The talent coming into all areas of our sector is really very inspiring.

8. What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

Political sense and stability (hmmm). All my family being at home which happens less and less as they get older, lots of friends, plenty of great wine and my beloved CFC heading the Premier League (actually top four will be more than enough).

9. New Year's resolution?

To never have one.