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Generics respond to the pandemic: New Zealand Winegrowers

Published:  17 April, 2020

In the first of a series focusing on how the generic bodies are dealing with the current crisis, we talk to Chris Stroud, marketing manager Europe, New Zealand Winegrowers.

Is the UK office still up and running?

Yes there are only two of us in the UK office and we are both working from home currently but there has not been too much disruption.

What does work look like during lockdown?

New Zealand was in the middle of harvest when the country was put in to lockdown so the priority for our wineries was to complete the harvest as safely and quickly as possible in line with the guidelines around social distancing.

The team in New Zealand has been prioritising keeping members completely up to date with Covid-19 updates and a dedicated webpage was set up to be a central point of relevant industry information for regions and members. In response to Covid-19 as a generic, we are directing our focus to support our members to navigate their wine businesses through these challenging times. We are hosting webinars for our members, and sharing access from other relevant NZ agencies, like New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and these have been focusing on business continuity measures and capability building in areas such as Ecommerce/Direct to Consumer.

Here in the UK, and indeed with my colleagues in other markets, we have been providing intel on the situation to keep our wineries informed and posting relevant stories and updates. We are also currently working on a webinar for members to discuss the situation in the UK and answer any concerns they may have.

We have a group of New Zealand winery representatives based in the UK and Europe who all work remotely, so we have come together over Zoom to touch base and keep connected with each other as much as possible. We are updating our Guides to Market for our winery members, which provides them with a background on key markets, and this will be supported with an explanatory webinar to assist them further. Part of this will include how to adapt to the new normal post Covid-19.

In terms of planned events, initiatives and campaigns, what you have shifted and to when?

We had a number of sommelier tastings organised across Europe as well as a number of other masterclasses in the UK, including at the London Wine Fair. These have all been postponed but once the situation allows we will look to hold them at a convenient time. However, it is too early for specific dates.

We were to run an Independent Retailer Promotion through April and May, but once the lockdown began, we felt that it was inappropriate to continue with that as retailers were trying to organise how to continue trading. We will look to set this up again in due course.

On the positive side, we have Sauvignon Blanc Day coming up on 1 May, and while we cannot run any physical activity, we have teamed up again with Loire Valley Wines and arranged a selection of samples to be delivered to key wine writers in national media and consumer titles and there will be other social media activity around that day as well.

Later in May we are also sponsoring a New Zealand edition of Sorcha Holloway's #ukwinehour on twitter with Rebecca Gibb MW.

There are other online activities and partnerships we are currently considering and discussing with relevant parties but nothing confirmed.

What other initiatives or new strategies might we see as we emerge post lockdown?

I think its quite early to say, but there is no doubt that being in lockdown has changed the way we work and that digital and online activity could become more widespread with more webinars, online tastings, etc, in the future.

Indeed, one opportunity has arisen that I am working on with my colleagues in North America which is a series of New Zealand Wine Diary webinars over the next three months with leading Master Sommeliers from the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand, coming together to discuss key topics relevant to New Zealand wine in these markets. The first being Wednesday 29 April. For those interested in tuning in we will post details on our social media channels.

Do you foresee any changes with regard to how the producers you represent might approach this market post the pandemic?

Nothing I can think of at the moment, but the enforced way of conducting meetings remotely could have an effect on wineries visiting the market.

Any other comments?

With the on-trade and hospitality industry decimated at the moment, and many colleagues in the wine importer companies currently furloughed, our thoughts are very much with them and it is important to be sensitive with regard to any activity we are running.