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Barney Davis is the Buying Director of London based Bancroft Wines established 25 years ago. They have built their business to include 30 employees and a wide range of relationship based agencies from across the wine world. They are focussed on HoReCa trade, independent and private clients.
Tell us more about your business?
Bancroft Wines is an award-winning London-based wine distributor servicing all corners of the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and The Isle of Wight. We work closely with a group of hand-picked producers from around the world to deliver a broad range of exclusive wines to our customers. A large portion of our portfolio comes from Europe, but we are also very proud to work with many outstanding producers in the New World-- including Luigi Bosca in Argentina, Ten Minutes by Tractor in Australia, Hartenberg in South Africa, and Chateau Montelena in the United States. About 1/3 of our producers are certified Organic, and sustainability is a top priority for us, both in choosing our suppliers and in shaping how our operation is run in the UK. As a business, we are uniquely positioned in the UK market; small enough to be flexible when dealing with suppliers and customers, while also offering the stability to meet all their business demands.
What is your business’ target market?
Our diverse customer base includes some of the UK’s best fine-dining and Michelin-starred restaurants, casual restaurants, Gastropubs, restaurant groups, independent retail outlets, regional merchants as well as a large database of private clients.
How is the market currently?
The past few months have been difficult in the wine trade- the collapse and subsequent restructuring of major players, both distributors and restaurant groups, has sent shock waves through the industry. There is also a decline in overall consumption of alcohol. This only reinforces our notion that to be successful here we need to continue to invest in quality-led, authentic producers who offer good value for money at all price points and to ensure that the deals we make with our customers are sustainable for us as well as our producers.
All the stats show premiumisation of the wine market – how is your business adapting to that?
Ours is a quality-led offer, so we already operate in the premium corner of the wine market. We are happy that consumers are willing to spend a bit more on good wines, but we also know that the market remains extremely competitive at all price points. We need to continue to work hard to tell our producers’ stories, communicate clearly about our wines’ unique selling points, and offer true value to our customers.
Supermarkets dominate the UK market, are they still as powerful as they were in the wine market?
Supermarkets continue to represent 75% of UK wine sales, so there is no denying their importance and power. But there is also a positive trend in independent retail and in off-trade/on-trade hybrid models such as wine bars with retail on premises, which encourages consumer discovery and wine diversity, and is positive for our business.
What are the specific trends that you are seeing emerge?
There is certainly more interest in organic, Biodynamic and vegan wines than ever before, which we are very pleased about as we have a particularly strong selection. We are also seeing growing demand wines from off-the-beaten-track places, such as Slovenia, Romania and some lesser-known regions of Spain, such as Mallorca and Terra Alta, in Catalunya.
Should the UK market still be a priority for global producers?
The UK is a very competitive market, with highly-informed consumers and highly-trained members of the trade. It is also the breeding ground for many global wine trends, so if a producer can succeed here, they will probably succeed anywhere. In that sense, the UK market is a window to the rest of the wine world. It might be harder to compete business-wise, but I believe it is important to be in the UK if a producer wants to build its profile on a global level.
How should the ambitious producer approach the UK Market?
A producer should be aware of the competition and difficulties and search out an importer whose profile matches their style, philosophy, and ambitions. It is important to do plenty of research on pricing and similar wines in the market to have a realistic understanding of where the wines will compete. UK consumers are also increasingly sensitive to modern, attractive and well-designed packaging, so this is an area producers should research and invest in before approaching the market.
Are natural biodynamic and organic wines going to forge a significant share of the UK market?
These wines have been growing significantly in the independent on and off-trade for many years, and we have recently seen the beginnings of an increase in supermarkets as well. I do believe that public awareness of organic wines and the idea of sustainability impacting quality will become significant in the next decade- how much this will affect day-to-day purchasing decisions is the question.
Will Alexa ever replace sommeliers?
We hope not! We have tremendous respect for our sommelier colleagues and all the time and effort they put into their craft. So much of hospitality is about the personal touch and being made to feel taken care of- whether that comes through in the service, wine or the food- and that is much harder to achieve with technology alone.
About the Author
The article is contributed by Alistair Morrell, a Wine Inspector, wine industry consultant, journalist, and commentator. Over 30 years as a wine business professional, Alistair shares his global knowledge, network, and experience of growers, importers, distributors, and buyers.
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