The beverage business blog from Olly Wehring
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Olly Wehring.
Coming to you live from LIWSF II
16 May 2006 16:55
As day one here draws to a close, a brief window during which to sit down and reflect has opened. The fair looks and feels bigger than ever this year, and the crowds have been streaming round the hall for most of the day. A few gripes, however, have reached my ears as I’ve been doing the rounds.
For a start, it’s boiling in here - and it’s not even a warm day outside. So, here I am, dressed in my fineries, and – how can I put this – glowing a tad. It’s not just me, however, who’s suffering. One wine maker has told me that they’re having to store their red wines in the fridge. All the more frustrating, however, is that the air conditioning outlets are clear for all to see if they just look up.
Another grumble is the size of the spirits section this year, which, let’s be honest, is never that huge anyway. One journalist said it looks like it’s been bolted on to the rest of the show as a mere afterthought.
Then there are the usual travel issues (miles from anywhere) that rear their head. And don’t get me started on the wireless Internet that is so jam-packed that I can’t get online.
But on the bright side, the girl promoting Brazil’s generic wine stand is hugely impressive, and not for reasons you might imagine. Any 18-year-old not wearing a suit at a trade fair is going to stand out – least of all if they’re wearing a Brazilian football kit and playing keepy-uppy with a football as they do the rounds.
More tomorrow, but for now, I’m loosening the tie and tasting the wares.
Coming to you live from LIWSF
16 May 2006 13:48
Greetings from day one of three here at ExCel in London. The show has got off to a great start, with a terrific atmosphere throughout, and we’ve got the ideal viewpoint – upstairs at the press centre. The throngs are swarming and the wine is flowing, and we can see it all.
So far, we’ve attended a seminar looking at promoting French wine to consumers, we’ve had a one-to-one chat with Foster’s Wine Estates’ MD, Jamie Odell, and I'm about to talk to the CEO of Constellation Europe, Jon Moramarco.
Among the many familiar faces I’ve bumped into so far today has been John McLaren, the head of the California Wine Institute here in the UK. John is counting down the days until California overtakes France as the most popular wine region in the UK. “I’ve got the Champagne ready,” he tells me, adding that he thinks the overtaking manoeuvre is set to take place in the first quarter of next year.
“I’m not sure to celebrate with Champagne or Californian sparkling wine,” he tells me.
A pleasant dilemma, then, John.
The World Cup - something for the lady?
12 May 2006 18:08
As any drinks company trying to sell its products to men will know, the football (alright Americans, soccer) World Cup is just around the corner.
But wait - surely by going football crazy, some of you are neglecting half of your target market? Well, Maxxium UK believes it has that base covered as well.
The company has unveiled a range of Footballer’s Wives cocktails, created by its mixologist Wayne Collins. The cocktails are presumably designed to help the female population not feel neglected during the tournament.
Victoria Beckham - wife of England captain David - is ‘celebrated’ as it were, with Victoria’s Golden Bols, a mix of Bols melon liqueur, vodka and orange juice.
Cheryl Tweedy - fiancee of England’s Ashley Cole and member of pop group Girls Aloud - gets Tweedy’s Tipple: Swirls Aloud, a mix of Bols Crème de Cacao white liqueur, Bols Grenadine syrup, Silver tequila, cream and milk.
Finally, Colleen McLoughlin - girlfriend of England’s saviour (who goes into the tournament injured), Wayne Rooney - has Colleen’s Fruity Couture - Crème de Cacao white liqueur and Galliano mixed with milk and cream.
I’ll wager that all of these cocktails have ice that, like most English football fans’ hopes come July, is crushed...
I thank you.
The glory days of a pint at lunch - RIP?
12 May 2006 17:29
Now, some of our readers will remember with fondness the halcyon days when a beer or two at lunchtime wasn't just a well-earned treat, it was almost compulsory. I, sadly, missed the boat on the lunchtime-drinking-becoming-half-a-day-in-the-pub times of journalism. But I'm told that it was great.
A survey from law firm Browne Jacobson, meanwhile, has found that 57% of businesses in the UK now actually ban drinking during the working day.
This reminds me of the story we wrote last year about the Danish brewery workers who went on strike when management limited when and where they could drink the product they made.
I'm very interested to know, therefore, how this works out at other alcoholic drinks companies. Are you allowed a drink? Are you even encouraged to have a drink? Or is it strictly hands off until after five?
Do let me know.
LIWSF - Start your engines
11 May 2006 14:00
I presume that, like me, you have received your visitor badge for next week’s London International Wine & Spirit Fair.
Here, then, follows a list of what else to bring: passport, toothbrush, business cards. You may want to bring a suit as well (don’t want to look underdressed). And maybe some Red Bull, because it’s going to be a long three days.
And we here at just-drinks are raring to go. Not only will we be out in force at the event, we’ll also be filing stories as and when we get them around ExCel – Live from the Fair, if you will.
The good news for you all is that ExCel has wireless Internet access. The bad news is that it’s not that cheap. The better news, then, is that just-drinks is offering all visitors to the fair free Internet access, at its Executive Internet Centre at stand G10. Check your emails, surf the Web or check the latest sports news – for free.
After the popularity of the service last year, we’ve increased the number of stations at the show. With six free Internet stations and a research desk managed by the just-drinks team, the stand is guaranteed to be a useful resource for anyone at the show.
So, we wish you a relaxing weekend, and look forward to welcoming you to London next week. Here’s to a successful few days.
A-B and Miller - will the bickering never stop?
05 May 2006 13:37
There are a few things guaranteed in life: death, taxes – and the odd spat between Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing, are certainly among them.
This week, Miller dismissed the ‘Here’s to Beer’ campaign – an industry-wide initiative led by A-B to promote the beer category as a whole – as only serving the interests of the Budweiser brewer. A-B had tried to garner industry support for the campaign, but has been left to handle the effort on its own as rival brewers opt to focus on their own brands.
Yesterday (4 May), St. Louis hit back, arguing that ‘Here’s to Beer’ had won industry-wide backing, pointing out that wholesalers and retailers around the country were supporting the campaign. Moreover, Bob Lachky, the A-B executive in charge of the campaign, was quick to point out that rival wholesalers were putting their weight behind the initiative and insisted the marketing drive did not need the endorsement of other brewers.
The campaign is a personal crusade for Lachky, the man behind many of A-B’s marketing successes in the past. He is adamant that ‘Here’s to Beer’ is working, with the domestic beer category up during the early part of this year and beer beginning to win back share of throat against wine and spirits in some US states.
A-B has been less bullish, however, about last week’s revelations in the Wall Street Journal that the brewer had changed the recipes to Budweiser and Bud Light in recent years. The WSJ – the second most read paper in the US – quoted A-B chairman August A. Busch as saying that he ordered more hops to be added to the beers. This admission comes after A-B had repeatedly denied Miller’s claims that it had changed the recipe for Budweiser and Bud Light.
Naturally, Miller was delighted at A-B’s ‘confession’ and the giddiness in Milwaukee must have reached record highs last week, as Miller sent a plane flying over A-B’s St. Louis HQ with a banner that read: “Sire, sire, pants on fire” (No, I didn’t get it either).
It was a stunt that left A-B employees scratching their heads in bewilderment but maybe Miller shouldn’t be so hasty in revelling in others’ discomfort. A-B saw domestic volumes rise 4.6% during the first quarter of the year, the first signs of a turnaround from last year’s disappointing performance. Meanwhile, Miller’s parent, SABMiller, revealed in a trading update last month that Miller sales-to-retailers were down 1% for the year to 31 March.
SABMiller reveals its full financial figures for the year on 18 May – only then will we really discover if it has been left with egg on its face.
Beer before wine, feel fine - wine before beer?
03 May 2006 16:21
My three-week adventure in Argentina came to an end last week, and no sooner do I get back than our friends in the brewing industry, who may have felt somewhat neglected during my wine exploits, give me something to write (home?) about.
The race to snap up Foster’s Asian brewing interests appeared to take an interesting turn last week, with Asia Pacific Breweries mooted to be the new front-runner. Industry sources told just-drinks that, while Scottish & Newcastle and SABMiller were the original favourites, APB seems prepared to stump up more cash for the assets.
In the US, meanwhile, the continuing backbiting between Anheuser-Busch and Miller saw the latter pull “I told you so” poses, with A-B admitting that it had changed the recipes of Budweiser and Bud Light, despite its dismissal of Miller’s claims late last year as “just another marketing ploy”.
And with Molson Coors set to announce its figures early this week, it looks like the brewers are set to hog the limelight for a little while longer.
Looming on the horizon, and itching to steal a share of the limelight, meanwhile, is the London International Wine & Spirit Fair. The event, which has become the seminal meeting point for the world’s wine companies, returns this month, and just-drinks has all the bases covered – not only will we be there in person, with our own stand where you can come and say hello and check your emails, but we’re also launching a preview diary today. Every day between now and 16 May, we’ll be running a page highlighting who’s doing what, when and where at ExCel.
To let us, and all our subscribers, know what your plans for the LIWSF are, drop me a line at email@example.com, and we’ll put you in our diary.
(Late) Postcard from Argentina
27 Apr 2006 15:30
As custom dictates, my postcard to you all from Argentina arrives after I return home. Back at the helm, I still had time last week to raise a dram to you, dear reader, in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier (ice from the glacier, of course).
Sincerest thanks to Wines of Argentina for making this photo possible.
19 Apr 2006 10:36
A warm welcome back to all of you after what was – hopefully – a relaxing break over Easter. Easter is a time when thoughts turn to new life and last week we saw one of the industry’s major players taking a decisive step in refreshing and revitalising its business.
Australia’s Foster’s Group tied up one of the loose ends of its flagging international brewing business with the sale of the rights to the Foster’s brand in Europe, Russia and parts of the CIS. And with the sale of its brewing assets in Asia likely to follow in the coming months, Foster’s, under the steady command of president and CEO Trevor O’Hoy, is moving to reposition itself as a global premium wine producer.
The deal was the first sign that Foster’s had accepted the end of its dream to be a key player in the global brewing industry. The company had invested heavily in the world’s emerging beer markets but returns from their operations in markets like India, China and Vietnam were not good enough – and Foster’s found it nigh on impossible to compete with the brewing giants of InBev, SABMiller and Heineken.
Nevertheless, last week’s sale of the rights to Foster’s in Europe is likely to leave the company in a stronger position in an ever-consolidating wine industry. Foster’s is likely to have taken more than a passing interest in Constellation Brands’ recent acquisition of Vincor International, a deal that strengthened the US group’s position as the largest winemaker on the planet. Foster’s now has a considerably stronger balance sheet and is in a better position to expand via acquisitions or invest more cash behind marketing its stable of wine brands, investment that is growing all the more necessary in the wine industry with the growing power of retailers around the world.
For more on a brighter future at Foster’s, check out our Hot Topics section: http://www.just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=21
And for those who have scoffed one too many Easter eggs over the last few days, check out our look at the rise of ‘wellness’ products. http://www.just-drinks.com/topic.aspx?ID=20
Some of the language used by soft drinks producers to promote their expanding range of ‘functional’ or ‘nutraceutical’ wares may be a little clumsy but I’m sure some of you will find some solace that there are healthy options on offer after gorging yourselves on chocolate over the weekend.
The future of wine tourism
11 Apr 2006 12:09
One final point from me, before I disappear into the Argentinean sunset for a couple of weeks...
Naturally, I’ve been spoilt rotten over here, with flagons of wine, enough steak to floor the most vociferous of carnivores, and overnights in hotels that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford in a month of Sundays.
One of these hotels got me thinking, though. This one located in the north-west of Argentina, is part of the El Esteco winery, whom I was a guest of last week.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not an advert – it’s just that, with so many winemakers in stunning parts of the world struggling a little (yes, Monsieur France and Matey Australia, I mean you), what better way of opening another revenue stream by opening a hotel? My esteemed peer and travelling partner, wine writer Simon Woods, noted on the trip that New Zealand has some pretty good hostelries attached to wineries, and I can attest to the superb set-up at the Fetzer winery in Hopland, California.
The arrangement at El Esteco, however, is that the winemaker has rented a chunk of its buildings to Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to run and maintain.
Although our hosts wouldn’t go into figures, this feels to me like the ideal path for wine tourism to take in what, for some, are troubled times.