This week representatives from across the wine industry converged on Melbourne for the inaugural Australian Trade Tasting. Held across three days in Melbourne and one in Sydney, the event started with a trade tasting of beer, wine and spirits from across the globe followed by a series of seminars in Melbourne and an additional trade tasting in Sydney.
Produced by the Beverage Trade Network, the tasting showcased established beverage brands alongside those looking for representation in Australia, together with a series of masterclasses on wines from Alsace, Castilla-La Mancha and Australian cider. Two days of seminars focussed on doing business in Australia as well as exporting to the USA and the line up of speakers was impressive. Key industry members spanning the range of the industry shared experiences as well as guidance and insights into running a successful business in both the Australian and US markets.
Day 1 of the seminars opened with David Lipman, Director of Drinks Hub welcoming participants to the event before Natasha Rastegar of Wine Intelligence provided an overview of the Australian wine, spirit and beer markets. Key findings were an overall decline in the consumption per capita of alcohol, the lowest in Australia for the past 50 years. The good news for some however is in the craft beer sector, which showed growth amongst recent respondents to a Wine Intelligence survey. 
As the day progressed a common theme emerged and this is one echoed in the recently published strategy document for Wine Australia 2015-2020. The key to selling Australian wine both on the domestic and international markets, and in the words of Writer, Presenter and Television Host Tyson Stelzer is “the story of the people and the story of the land”.
From the highly engaging Glenn Cooper AM of the famed Coopers Brewery, looking at how to manage and grow your beer brand, to the highs and lows of hugely successful online retailer Vinomofo and its co-founder Andre Eikmeier, the message was clear; authenticity is critical to engaging the customer. As brand custodians, relationships must be real and be highly invested in for success, with real stories about real people working their land being central to this message.
Adding to this message and looking at ways to make people fall in love with your brand was the topic for Liquid Ideas Commentator and Founder Stu Gregor, who challenged the audience to offer something marvellous that was meaningful to people. One of my favourite quotes of the day came from this session; “if you don’t have the ambition to be amazing, to be the person who says I’m going to do it, then don’t bother starting”. The successes shared by those on the stage during the day clearly demonstrated success is possible with enterprise, action and authenticity.
The wide range of industry representatives speaking provided a good overview of the industry at this point in time. Rose Scott, General Manager for Buying of one the two supermarkets giants in Australia, Woolworths, shared valuable information on effective merchandising programmes in retail, while Guiseppe Minissale, President of the Australian Liquor Stores Association, offered great insight into what independent merchants are looking for when selecting a new brand.
Other topics included a closer look at how to attract new customers with Tyson Stelzer and tips on digitial strategies for wineries in 2015 and beyond from Tania Shirgwin of BizEez Communications. On a more practical note, Jenna Hemsworth, currently working at Melbourne’s Lui Bar spoke about how to influence mixologists and sommeliers and Kathleen Davies of Nip of Courage shared advice on how to pitch a brand to a prospective distributor.
The first day of seminars closed with the highly respected Bill Lark, Founder of Lark Distillery and central figure within the Australian beverage industry, who shared his in-depth knowledge on building a sustainable brand before closing the day’s events.
Overall the Melbourne event offered industry members a chance to taste new products, attend tasting masterclasses and benefit from insights from some of the most experienced members of the Australian beverage industry. For anyone working in the industry or considering bringing a product to the Australian market, the Australian Trade Tasting would be one to mark down in the calendar for next year!
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