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Global wine powerhouse strengthens local market

Global wine powerhouse strengthens local market

Accolade Wines has a rich heritage in the global wine market but its presence in Australia is felt from coast to coast. Adam McCleery writes.

Accolade Wines has built a strong history in Australia with its oldest wine brand, Houghton, being established in 1836. Which in modern Australian terms is a long time ago.

Accolade Wines chief supply chain officer, Derek Nicol, sat down with Food & Beverage Industry News to speak about the current position of the manufacturer and what it expects for the near future.

“Our number one priority is to make great wines and this shows in that we have three of the top ten brands in the United Kingdom and two of the top ten brands here in Australia,” he said.

“From an overall business, we are end-to-end integrated across the supply chain from grape to glass.

“We’ve got 1,400 employees across the overall business in 40 countries around the world and within the supply chain we have around 900 people. We deliver 270 million litres of wine which goes to 130 countries.

“We are about innovation, sustainability and we are focused on making sure we are customer centric, working closely with all our partners and suppliers.”

As sustainability continues to become a greater focus for both the industry and the consumer, Accolade Wines is innovating at speed to lead the way in this area.

“We have a global sustainability agenda and are working with our teams around the world to implement it.

Currently, in South Australia we are focusing on solar opportunities, and we are upgrading our wastewater treatment plant,” said Nicol.

“Sustainability is still a large message and something that every supplier is looking at.

“We’ve done some packaging and sustainability, like our PET Eco bottle. We will continue to innovation in this which help our consumers”

Another of Accolade Wines brands, Banrock Station, is a clear example of this business focus.

 Banrock Station (pictured) has proven to be one of Accolade Wines best sellers

Banrock Station (pictured) has proven to be one of Accolade Wines best sellers

“Banrock Station was set up with an environmental focus,” said Nicol.

“It’s been doing that for 25 years – well before many others – and we will keep doing positive things for the environment and wetlands in the Riverland.

“Our sustainability agenda has been at the core of the business for a long time, but more recently it’s about making sure that becomes more visible because sustainability is at the forefront of the mind of consumers and producers.”

Nicol said Accolade Wines is transparent when it comes to what they do and how they manufacture their products, building trust with the industry and consumer markets.

“We already have organic options available, we don’t believe they will be huge areas going forward, but we have the access and capability,” he said.

“Sustainability is not just about just being organic, its end to end. It works in the vineyard across your wineries and throughout your supply chain. Be that glass, production, transport, or products like cask.”

A range of factors have resulted in cask wine having large commercial volume in Australia, and one other benefit to note is the positive environmental side of cask wine.

“You’re shipping around larger formats which are more sustainable and there is more education that needs to happen around the consumer and the wine trade itself on what can be the best footprint,” said Nicol.

“We’ve also launched a wine in the UK called Wise Wolf which is 100 per cent recycled glass and again that is one we will look to launch in Australia in due course.

“We are keeping sustainability at the forefront of our innovation.”

Another critical piece for Accolade Wines in 2022 is growing its presence in the low and no-alcohol market segment.

“We’ve made good strides forward with Hardy’s Zero using new technology that has produced a superior product,” said Nicol.

“And we know that because we’ve benchmarked it against the competitive set which has resulted in numerous awards already. We also have a premium brand “& Then” that has been launched. That’s ensuring we have a great offering across the low and no alcohol formats.”

As with every other business, Accolade Wines had to face a string of disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain disaster which followed.

Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, Nicol said the company came out of it with its head held high. “There’s a couple of things, from the outset of COVID we were struggling domestically from a service standpoint,” he said.

“We had to focus on three things, improving our customer dialogue, getting back to basics, and working with agility.”

Nicol was full of praise for the way the Accolade Wines team managed the uncertain times.

“Our Australia and New Zealand team has done a tremendous job over the last 18 months, and we’ve seen that with awards, from a commercial side but also from a supply chain side,” he said.

“We won Endeavour Drinks Supplier of the Year this year. And more recently we have won the Advantage Group Survey Supplier of the Year in Drinks Industry.”

Nicol said the plaudits were great, but supply chain issues continue to disrupt at the present time.

“Last year at Christmas we had peak trading impacted by Lockdowns. The wider Supply Chain environment suffered with driver availability because of covid or indeed because of pallet shortages,” he said.

“Over the last two years, supply chain across every industry has been tested in several areas, not just Covid. We’ve had many challenges including floods that have compounded matters.

“You learn a lot about yourself and your team and how to be creative and get products to customers and consumers.

“It’s been a challenging environment, but we continue to work with agility to solve what is thrown at us.”

Nicol said every customer, retailer, and manufacturer faced issues, but they were slowly being overcome or rectified.

“We came out with our heads held high and were recognised for that, which is a good sign,” he said.

“But there are more challenges to come, including in the macroeconomic environment, cost of living challenges which will throw other events at us in the form in inflation but also the key is how that uncertainty is dealt with.”

Despite the way the company was recognised for its efforts during the worst years of the pandemic, Accolade Wines never rested on its laurels.

“Things don’t stand still from a technology standpoint we have recently implemented a new ERP or IT system and we will completely upgrade our wine making and viticulture systems,” said Nicol.

“We’ve not stood still and those things complemented by upgrades to our planning tools, will help us capture more data to become more data savvy and use that to deliver value adds.”

 Berri Estate is one of Accolade Wines South Australian locations

Berri Estate is one of Accolade Wines South Australian locations

Once additional example of technology upgrade is the recently installed G2 line at one of Accolade Wines Production hub in Berri, South Australia.

“The G2 line was a big investment, and is a dual sparkling and still wine,” said Nicol.

“It’s a large production line. However, that modern technology and putting in the systems to support and monitor it has only helped us develop and upgrade on how we can use that data coherently to improve run sizes, speed to market, and so on.”

The upgrading of manufacturing equipment and processes didn’t stop at new lines, automation is also being taken up at a greater rate.

“We’ve had a lot of things that have improved, we also have Automated Guided Vehicles in the packaging facility warehouse,” said Nicol.

“These are step changes in how we manage our warehouse and our distribution off the back of it.

“Those things are huge steps forward for us as we move from amore manual- based orientation to bringing ourselves into the 21st century.”

Nicol said the heavy investment at the Berri site was a clear indicator of the company’s intentions moving forward.

“It has helped the community and improved both our ability to become a modern manufacture and deliver what we need to the customers,” he added.

Accolade Wines takes a great deal of pride in controlling the provenance of its product within Australia and the United Kingdom, a ‘grape to glass’ method.

“For us, what is received from grape to glass depends on where you segment your portfolio,” Nicol said.

“That’s the most important piece, so at the luxury end there’s a bit more provenance you need more control over, whereas at the commercial and mainstream end you end up with more partnerships with growers, we have a partnership in the Riverland with the CCW Co-operative, our Commercial Grower base.

“We’ve been working with them for over 100 years and that type of arrangement is to help maintain our grape supply.”

Derek Nicol, Accolade Wines chief supply chain officer
Derek Nicol, Accolade Wines chief supply chain officer

Nicol said it was extremely important to be aware of where the product is grown, and how it is grown, to ensure you meet the required standards.

“Then that goes through our winery, and we control that from a winemaking standpoint. When we say we take
it from grape to glass, we guide and control that,” he added.

“We’ve got a viticulture team that helps support our growers as well as our own vineyards to ensure optimal grape growing.

“Generally, you control that by owning the assets and facilities, but if I use the North American example, we don’t own assets there, so we have to find the right partners.”

That’s where the winemaking team and the wine sourcing team come into their own, making sure those targets and subsequent standards are being met.

“It creates this balance of making sure that people are providing the wine to your specification, even though you don’t own the assets,” said Nicol.

“That’s the interesting part and is the best model for to avoid unnecessary capital investment. You need to be diverse and creative to ensure you have the optimal outcome from grapes to actual wine.”

In addition to embracing our rich heritage, we are also consistently looking forward to how we innovate our business and the industry to embrace new trends and opportunities

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