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Philip Robinson & the ‘supplier of choice’

Findlater Wine & Spirit Group’s Marketing Director talks to Pat Nolan about the company’s progress since amalgamation two years ago.

Since its creation from the merger of the Findlater Grants and Woodford Bourne businesses in 2008, many feel that Findlater Wine & Spirit Group has kept its head down somewhat. I ask its Marketing Director (and Irish Wine Association Chairman) Philip Robinson why this should be.

“It’s been a challenging few years for the wine and spirits industry with massive changes to both the on- and off-trade and prices dropping dramatically,” he replies, “That led to a large number of changes in importer/distributorship makeup with closures, mergers etc – a time of great activity.

“Findlater has embraced these changes since its consolidation and is committed to its mission of being wine and spirit ‘supplier of choice’ in Ireland. Along with many added value services to the trade and one of the finest portfolios of wine brands, Findlaters is committed to the spirits market.”

And the company has plans.

“In spirits, we’ve quite significant plans for the portfolio over the next 12 months,” says Philip, “We’re about to re-launch Sea Dog Rum, an old established dark rum which has eight per cent of the rum category and 95 per cent of the dark rum market”.
Findlater owns this brand, now repackaged and to be supported by an integrated marketing programme during the year including a social media campaign targeted on on-trade promotions and POS; in the off-trade shelf-talkers and a new fully-branded outer case help increase visibility. One of the key objectives is to retain existing consumers whilst recruiting a new male 35-plus consumer.

Rum is the fastest-growing category in the spirit market and the only category in on-trade growth, explains Philip. It’s also the third-largest category after vodka and whiskey with a nine per cent share of the spirits market.

“Findlaters is committed to the development in Ireland of Tullamore Dew,” he adds, “Key to that development is the on-trade and the introduction of a Trade Developer working exclusively for the brand in the Dublin on-trade is resulting in increased distribution and visibility for the brand.”

Findlaters is working with William Grant & Sons, owners of Tullamore Dew, to build the brand in this market, particularly in its home town of Tullamore where plans are in place to turn the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre into a modern top-class brand experience in time for the 2012 tourist season.

“It reflects William Grant’s very significant commitment to develop Tullamore Dew in the home market,” he says.
“In terms of spirits, these represent our two core drives along with William Grant scotch which is seeing significant increases in volume.”

Going forward, Philip stresses, “Our overall mission is to be the wine and spirits ‘supplier of choice’ with particular focus on the on-trade.”

Indeed, his new business card, carrying nothing less than the slogan ‘supplier of choice’, emphasises this.
For Findlater’s to merit this ‘supplier of choice’ cachet some basic building blocks are required “… which we now have in our portfolio alongside sales coverage and our training and developmental aspects. We’ve a dedicated and exclusive Training Manger in Noel Tymlin, available to train and help customers up-sell their business. He spends most of his time helping up-sell in both the restaurant and pub trade.

“We offer sales initiatives to our customers to help them develop wine in the pub trade and we’re doing some interesting tests with a number of customers.”

He’s found the more progressive publicans to be interested in initiatives that will help grow their business either in terms of selling more wine or trading up to Tullamore Dew aged variants such as its 10 Year-Old Single Malt matured in four different types of cask — and that requires staff competent and trained in the brand.

“It’s not enough to have the product on optic any more. It’s now the same in the pub trade as in a restaurant where a good sommelier or a good waiter or bartender can help up-sell the business.”

He’s noticed customer demand changing in the on-trade over the last few years too.

“Firstly take the pub trade where there’s increasing interest in wine and they’re moving away from quarter bottles to wine by the glass,” he notes, “We’ve been able to offer the publican a package here which has been successful as part of our ‘supplier of choice’ initiative.

“We’re helping bars and pubs sell more wine through both ‘by the glass’ initiatives and through other avenues we’re pursuing. We identified the need to offer a varying selection of wine available by the glass as consumers are happy to spend a little extra on a ‘nicer’ wine if they’re only having the one drink. Our specials on Jadot Fleurie and Moreau Chablis worked particularly well, for example.

“And we’re working together with our customers and brand owners to develop other initiatives for pubs and restaurants to keep consumers eating and drinking out of the home. For example, the recent launch of Torres Natureo de-alcoholised wine to allow drivers to still enjoy the wine experience without the alcohol.

“Restaurants have meal offerings and in selling wine, they’re looking to make sure that they have the relevant wine offering and that price on this is suitable.”

In the pub trade, progressive bar owners are also interested in up-selling whiskey, so Findlaters has set out to help them better understand how to do this or up-sell to aged blends or malts.

“The on-trade is responding to the consumer requirement for better value and consumers are willing to trade-up into premium spirits like single malts and 12 year-old age variants providing there’re price/quality ratios. Bar staff require to be trained up to this level. Consumers are becoming more demanding in that previously where service levels were poor they’d stay in a bar or restaurant but now they’ll move their custom elsewhere. It’s essential now for everyone in the industry to be customer/consumer-focused.”

‘Customer focus’ and ‘supplier of choice’ — two watchwords that Philip expects will become increasingly common currency when talking about Findlaters.

 

 

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