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Looking ahead: Mark Roberts, Lanchester Wines

Published:  10 August, 2022

With the first half of 2022 already history, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Mark Roberts, director of sales at Lanchester Wines

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

Are any of us really ‘back to normal’? The effects of Covid, Brexit, Putin, the rising cost of living will continue to disrupt the world for a few more years.

Having said that, as a business we’re in a stable condition. We continued to trade throughout Covid, albeit with an adapted model, and we worked hard pre-Brexit to implement measures ensuring we saw minimal disruption – our business has over 40 years’ experience of international trade and we continue to import and export worldwide and we have a highly skilled team working within our Class A, First Examination Bond department, overseeing our 1,028,000 ft2 of warehouse space.

How, if at all, have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

One of the ‘positives’ we can glean from the car crash of Covid is the overall willingness to be more adventurous with wine. Consumers are more prepared to try different wines and understand the wider opportunities within the category, going beyond the super varietal. We’re seeing a distinct change towards more eclectic varietals, and now a lot of the wines we are moving are the more exciting varietals with eccentric labels, almost mirroring the craft beer market.

And, we’re seeing the trade embracing alternative and innovative packaging, we’re particularly seeing a massive uplift in canned wine, and have just launched our new Wallflower range of canned Spanish wines.

How has the first half of 2022 been when compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019?

Looking at it as a total business, we’re happy with the trajectory. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t come without hard work and our success is testament to the expertise of our teams who have all battled unforeseeable challenges. We’re part of the family-owned Lanchester Group of companies, a diverse group of businesses spanning different sectors and various customer bases. This was a strategic development plan by our owners, Veronica and Tony Cleary, to ensure that, as a group, we remain strong with each business supporting the others as needed. This has particularly worked to our advantage over these challenging 24 months as while some of our companies saw the temporary closure of their customers, others saw uplift.

Lanchester Wines specifically made some strategic decisions before Brexit and at the start of the pandemic to mitigate our risk. Including the launch of Vintrigue Wines, our division with a unique offering for indie retailers, which has been an outstanding success for our development into a growing market while showcasing our premium ranges.

What were the highs and lows for your business in the first six months of 2022?

Highs were the fact that large sways of the industry were back operating at full strength, always great to see new accounts, new venues

Obvious low, the constant and ever-changing costs that seem to be unprecedented across all industries. Energy, shipping, dry goods. It’s not the fact that costs are going up, it’s that the increases are so sporadic with no obvious logic. Global markets are compounded with issues in Ukraine – it’s certainly made us look to the diversification of supply chain.

As other wine importers and merchants will be experiencing, sourcing 187ml glass has become impossible. Canned wine is no longer a new innovation – [Lanchester Group’s] Greencroft Bottling installed the UK’s first wine canning machine back in 2019 – but what we are now seeing is a massive migration to cans as the packaging of choice for single serve formats. Aside from being sustainable, cans are also sourceable, which affords us a level of consistency for our customers, which is paramount.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade in general?

As above, the standard of price increases across all sectors. We’re all seeing it at our own fuel pump, this transcends across everything

What are your priorities and predictions business-wise for the second half of 2022?

Assuming and hoping the markets level off with regards to supply chain, I would like to think the industry across all sectors will start to have continuity. Growth will be on the cards across all channels

What will the focus be on with regards to your portfolio and why?

The continuation of working with sustainable producers, both in the context of certainty of supply and sustainable practices on vineyards.

Lastly, if you could make one change in legislation/red tape/tax tomorrow, what would you choose?

Legislatively, it wouldn’t be just the one change – I’d love to change all the red tape around import/export of wine. It’s gone from a short process into mounds of paperwork. Duty is out of kilter, too much for cost of living.

Quick-fire questions:

Bordeaux or Burgundy?


Riesling or Chardonnay?


USA, OZ or South Africa?

All of the above please

Cocktails or slow sipping spirit?

Slow sipping spirit

English fizz or Champagne?

English Fizz

Favourite fast/junk food and drink paring?

Fish and chips and English sparkling wine