Beverage Trade Network Interview with Angela Slade
BTN catches up with Angela Slade, Regional Director of Wine Australia North America, and asks her a few questions about the role of Wine Australia and the new services they provide in the U.S. market as the Australian category evolves.
Throughout 2013–14, the U.S. industry has been expressing excitement about Australia's premium, diverse and regionally expressive wines. The recent market demand spurred Wine Australia into creating the Market Access Program to support wineries entering (or re-entering) the U.S. market. The program helps wineries with sample logistics, marketing, visibility, importer leads and key account business connections. In addition, Wine Australia is now launching the Trade Access Program, a service to connect U.S. trade with Australian wines already available in the U.S. market.
BTN: What is it that Wine Australia is doing with the Market Access Program?
Angela Slade: Our role isn't the traditional importer broker service; instead we are hand-holding Australian wineries with U.S. market education, sample logistics, PR, and visibility needs; we are acting on behalf of Wine Australia as a trusted source in this market to guide and support. Our goal is to connect interested importers with wineries via our network and strong industry partners, but the final step of negotiations is in the hands of the wineries themselves. We have market education tools, such as our new webinar that will be available to our Market Access Program clients, addressing topics like importer needs, pricing, and expectations. We hand the wineries the necessary resources to succeed and then let them and the importers work through the rest privately.
We started the Market Access Program as entry-to-market support for Australian wineries in early Spring 2013 as a trial to ascertain if there was truly a need and interest; we worked with 6 wineries. Based on that success, we launched the Market Access Program as a full fiscal year project from July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014 and have had 18 winery clients this year. The majority are small, family-owned, boutique wineries from all over Australia with both entry level and premium ranges and small to medium production. We are seeing great winery interest - and can see the diversity of Australian regional, premium, boutique wines growing in the U.S. market.
Why did you create this program?
Through this program, we have good insight into shifting market trends, and the growing interest in Australian wine today.
From early spring 2012, I began receiving requests from U.S. importers quietly looking for Aussie wineries to include in their books. They were quite specific - all looking for premium price points, and most having a distinct region, variety, or style in mind. I was also receiving requests from Australian wineries that had been either out of the U.S. for some years and wanted to get back into this market, as well as wineries that had never exported to U.S. but wanted to give it a go.
The U.S. is the #1 destination for Australian bottled exports, at 113.9 million liters, a value of $AUD 373 million. Australia represents 8% of total U.S. wine sales, and 23.5% of imported wine, by volume, according to Gomberg Fredrickson 2012 review. From everything I was seeing, it was clear there was a need both from the U.S. side and the Australian side.
Previously the AusTrade group handled entry-to-market needs for the wine industry, but in recent years they have focused their efforts more on investment into Australia. We had a service gap and we stepped in to fill it. So, I hired on a staff member to help me create and manage this program.
This is very different from 10–15 years ago during the Australian boom in this market. This has not appeared to be an intense volume or price-driven boom, instead it's a brand building, premium placement, more sophisticated view of Australian wines that are growing and rebuilding the category reputation in this market. I've been working with Australian wines for 15 years and this is a very exciting time!
The importer base is expanding and current importers are fine tuning. We are seeing a new group of importers starting to support Australian wines. These are importers who have not represented Australia before. We are also seeing significant shifts with Australian importers fine tuning their portfolios and adding new brands to fill regional gaps in their offering. Our importer list has grown significantly and the list of Australian wines in market and coming to market is increasingly dynamic.
You recently announced the planned launch of the Trade Access Program. How does it differ from the Market Access Program?
We are really excited about the Trade Access Program! With the recent success and interest in the Market Access Program, we've been seeing how the industry needs additional information and wine access. While the Market Access Program helps wineries enter the U.S. market (the Push strategy), we are introducing the Trade Access Program (the Pull strategy) from July 2014 to help trade access all Australian wines in market. The Trade Access Program will be a new resource for trade, particularly on-premise and independent retail, looking for smaller brands with regional and distinct offerings, or lesser-known SKUs within a popular brand range. Our two Access Programs have been developed to address the shifting identity and offerings of Australian wines in U.S.
Why is this necessary?
There has been considerable change in the Australian wines available in the U.S. market, particularly, which wines are available in which markets. The new diversity of Australian wines in the market is an exciting opportunity for trade to access a modern taste of Australia, but they have to know it's here, and know how to access it! We want to support importers across the country in this effort.
I often hear the trade rave about wines they tasted in Australia not realizing that those wines, or wines of a similar style, are already here in the US. Sometimes it's just because it doesn't get taken out of the warehouse unless there is a direct order, and other times it's because it's only available in small quantities in another market. We want to help the trade get their hands on the Aussie wines that they are excited about and want to sell to their customers.
For example, there are over 4,000 Australian SKUs available today in the U.S., including current vintage releases as well as museum and icon stock. In the past twelve months, Australia exported 1,865 SKUs to this market, led by Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay, but also included 84 Rieslings, 65 Pinot Noirs, 52 Grenaches, 45 Semillons, 42 Viogniers and 25 sparkling wines, just to name a few.
There are more wines coming from designated regions and from the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania than ever before in the U.S. market. The wine offerings from Western Australia and the famous South Australia have also seen style evolutions, brand extensions, new brand introductions, and emerging regional offerings. Australia today is eclectic and delicious!
But these wines aren't flooding the market - these are smaller offerings and require a bit more work to seek out. Most have been here in the U.S. for some years, yet we have more recently seen the audience and trade interest shift towards these offerings.
That's where our Trade Access Program comes in. We are actively letting trade know what's in market, and where and how to access it. This is a benefit for all Australian importers who have wines that require hand-selling, and all trade grappling to understand the full offering of premium Australian wines today in the USA.
We have dedicated staff, integrated request forms, and updated and indexed databases for this program. We are anticipating helping trade with general information, as well as client-specific needs to source requested wines. This will be a grassroots, service-oriented program to support the needs of trade, importers and wineries.
If you are interested in learning more about the Trade Access Program or Market Access Program, visit http://beveragetradenetwork.com/en/wine-australia-initiative-444.htm