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Bouncing Back Q&A: Tom Smith, Accolade Wines

Published:  16 August, 2021

It’s been a one-of-a-kind 18 months for the trade. Here, as we begin to push into the second half of the second year of the pandemic, Harpers is catching up with businesses to find out how they’re focusing on recovering from the shock, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

We continue our series with views from Tom Smith, marketing director for Europe, Accolade Wines.

How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

It’s great to see hospitality open back up and we’ve been working closely with our on-trade partners to ensure they were in the best place possible to help them bounce back.

From a retailer perspective, other than our teams working from home, it’s been business as usual, and we’ve had a phenomenal year. Accolade Wines Europe became the first major wine producer to be fully carbon neutral, as well as introducing exciting brand innovations, including Jam Shed Malbec, Echo Falls Rosé Seltzers and Banrock Station’s market-first flat bottles.

What are your priorities and predictions for the second half of 2021?

Sustainability will remain a big focus as we look to reduce our footprint as a business and build upon our carbon neutral status. Covid-dependent, it will be a strong second half of the year for the on-trade and we’ll be helping our partners maximise the wine opportunity, with food pairings and experience-led offerings. Ecommerce growth within wine was fast-tracked during lockdown and this will continue to grow in the year ahead.

What kind of Christmas are you anticipating and how are you prepping?

We always offer an exciting festive proposition from our brands and this year will be no different as we add a little theatre to the wine experience, whether you’re in the local pub or walking down the wine aisle at the supermarket. As always, we see premiumisation at that time of year so expect premium brands to grow their share.

Do you anticipate making a full recovery from the pandemic? What timeframes are realistic?

Yes, we hope so based on the here and now, but as we’ve all learnt from the past 18 months you can’t predict anything or take anything for granted. It’s been a positive year from an off-trade perspective, and with the on-trade beginning to return, we’re very optimistic. We’ve also made some sizeable acquisitions in the past 12 months, including most recently, Lambrini, and we’re looking forward to refreshing this famous brand in the months ahead.

How heavily have you been impacted by staffing issues?

It’s become more of a challenge recently with the ‘pingdemic’ but overall we’ve been able to keep production moving throughout, whilst ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our staff, which has always been the top priority.

Are you anticipating more Covid-related restrictions?

I hope not. It’s of course impossible to predict what the future holds in terms of Covid. We’re focused on the plans we’ve built and are feeling positive, we will continue to work closely with our customers to help keep the category on track. One thing we’ve learnt from the past 18 months is that we can be adaptable where we need to be, so if any course correction is needed, we’ll be ready.

How have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

Lockdown understandably saw more everyday drinking occasions shift back into our homes and this has continued in recent months with some people seeing a more permanent shift towards working from home and flexible working. This will continue to fuel the accelerated growth in online alcohol purchases, as well as expanding ranges in convenience stores to cater for wider needs. However, the return of the on-trade will also allow a greater level of sociable and special occasions to take place, which people have been missing.

There will also be more of a focus on health in the coming months, both on ‘healthy for me’ through both mental and physical health, and ‘healthy for the planet’ through sustainability. We expect the importance of no/low alcohol products to increase in the future and we have some exciting plans in this space.

An additional emerging trend for 2020 was the rising popularity of seltzers. We’ll see this grow further with new entrants offering innovative products and flavours to market.

Lastly, if you could make one change in government tomorrow, what would you choose?

Accolade Wines continues to engage constructively with the UK Government as it charts a new course for global Britain. Mutually beneficial agreements between the UK, Australia and New Zealand also provide opportunities for the UK to develop its own domestic wine policy and remove non-tariffs barriers, including winemaking practices such as carbonation. The Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) give a chance to deliver benefits to British consumers and create economic opportunities here in the UK. 

Giving everyone another bank holiday to enjoy the return of the on-trade would also go down well.

Quick-fire Questions

France, Spain or Italy?


USA or Oz?


Port or Sherry?


English bubbles or Champagne?

English bubbles.

Go-to drink to watch with the Olympics / tennis?

Large glass of Mud House normally does the trick.