Libby Nutt, Casella Family Brands global marketing & export sales manager

Libby Nutt, Casella Family Brands' global marketing & export sales manager

Casella Family Brands hit the acquisition trail late last year when it snapped up Barossa Valley producer Peter Lehmann Wines for AUD57m (US$49.8m). Here, just-drinks talks to the Australian firm's global marketing & export sales manager, Libby Nutt, about the plans ahead for the brand and Casella's star performer Yellow Tail.

just-drinks: How is the integration of Peter Lehmann Wines going?

Libby Nutt: It's going well. We need to approach it with a long-term strategic plan, so we don't want to change things overnight (at Peter Lehmann). We want to grow the brand, absolutely, but we want to make sure that it has meaningful growth. We understand the Barossa is finite. We've only had the assets for two months, so we're taking a look at it closely with the team within Peter Lehmann and are making sure we focus on delivering a successful vintage.

j-d: Which markets are you optimistic for regarding Peter Lehmann?

LN: We're excited about getting more growth in Australia and growing the Asian market, particularly within China and Japan, and looking to North America too. The brand is already in all those markets, but Casella has a strong foothold in these regions.

j-d: How is the Yellow Tail brand performing?

LN: Globally, we're still doing 12.5m annual cases with Yellow Tail. It's in strong growth in Australia (+22%), which is incredible considering that was one of the last big wine markets that we entered with the brand. In the UK, it's the fastest-growing wine label and number one Shiraz. We're really proud of that. It's been in the UK since the end of 2001, but the big push has really been in the last three years.

From a US perspective, we're still extremely strong there 14 years in. The volume growth for Yellow Tail is pretty flat, but we have introduced line extensions such as Sangria, Big Bold Red and Moscato Bubbles that have allowed us to maintain our market share..

j-d: Are you happy with the image of the brand in the US? There has been some criticism over what it says about Australian wine.

LN: From a consumer perspective, we have no challenges with brand health. The proof is in the pudding: We're still doing well in that market. We don't see any particular challenges in that respect, at the end of the day it's all about the consumer.

j-d: You're planning to launch your premium Casella 1919 brand in the US. What's the thinking behind that?

LN: It comes from looking at what's happening with consumers globally and how they are starting to trade up. We have been very focussed on Yellow Tail (in the US) but we also have access to exceptional parcels of fruit, and the resources required to make excellent quality wines that sit at the premium end of the wine category.

j-d: Some questions were raised about the financial health of the company in late 2013. Is the firm in a strong place currently?

LN: Absolutely. We wouldn't have been able to buy Peter Lehmann otherwise! I think some of those things are often blown out of proportion. We've been able to buy a company, which means we're in a strong place.

j-d: Are there plans for any more acquisitions?

LN: I never know what John (Casella) is thinking! There's nothing I'm aware of at the moment, but we're a very entrepreneurial company, so we're not going to sit still either.