Exporting eco-friendly wine

Protecting the environment is an uphill battle at times, but Andrew Peace Wines is charging in with a rather effective method, or should I say war cry?

In a market saturated with options, your wine may find itself ageing a little too well. So how do you stand out from the pack? Andrew Peace, winemaker and exporter, believes the answer lies in innovation and environmental awareness. After all, green is in, so may be it’s time to turn to an old adage: “Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money.”

Yet Peace’s parents didn’t realise they were setting the foundations for a green business when they moved to a property in Piangil, Victoria in the early 80s—they just wanted to escape the rat race. But it was the motivation Peace, only a high school student at the time, needed to enrol in Roseworthy Agricultural College. 

Since then, with the passionate winemaker at the helm, the Peace family’s 100 acres of vines has increased to 750 acres, capable of crushing 25,000 tons of grapes. More than 90 percent of Andrew Peace Wines’ business is made up of exports and it's in the top 20 wine companies Australia-wide for both crushing grapes and export sales. “We’ve had a pretty good run,” says Peace of his family business, which employs the equivalent of about 65 full-time staff to keep up with the demands of exporting to 22 countries.   

The latest driving force behind their success is the ‘green factor’. “We’ve been leading the way with different packing techniques and I think that makes a big difference,” explains Peace, referring to the provision of wine in a Tetra Pak. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But let’s face it; it’s an innovative approach to wine. The Tetra Pak is a glass alternative; almost as good as a screw cap and better than a conventional cork bottle, as far as oxygen ingress is concerned.

According to Peace, environmentally aware consumers love the concept. “It’s one hundred percent recyclable, and uses less energy than glass when being recycled,” he says. “Twenty-five truckloads of empty glass bottles are comparable to one truckload of empty Tetra Paks.”

The packs only weigh about 30g, while conventional bottles weigh between 700g and 1.2kg. So, with a transport saving of up to 40 percent, easing the environment’s burden comes with financial benefits. “It means that you’re a bit of a leader because everything is starting to go green,” he adds.

However an idea doesn’t mean much if you haven’t done the research to support it. Peace had the Tetra Paks road tested to see how they could be packed and transported and realised there was a downfall—they can’t be double-stacked and they need a pallet racking between layers.

Research has always been high on Peace’s list of priorities, long before the decision to use Tetra Paks. Andrew Peace Wines is now 13 years old, but Peace spent two years planning before launching, to ensure the business would get this far.

In fact, it was while reading up on business longevity and security that Peace realised export was a must. You see, security comes with multiple customers, he says, and initially Peace was only contracting to a couple of wineries. “So it all started for the security of the business,” he explains. “It’s really been the best move because we don’t do much contracting anymore. Most of the wine that we make gets crushed by us and we either sell it under a label that we control, or our own label. It’s all paramount to running a good business with long-term goals.”

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He recommends research to any business considering a new market. “You need to get in the market when it’s developing so people will take up your wine for distribution and then you’ve actually got the chance to manipulate your wine style to what people want,” he says. “In our main markets, which are the UK and USA, we actually got there early enough. And at the moment we’re doing very well in China as well.”

Always keep your consumers in mind, says Peace. “You need to make sure you do consumer research and let your consumer tell you what products work,” he explains.

“We try and open up in one or two markets a year, and we’ll go and get a feel for the product and label, maybe bringing back a couple of bottles of wine so we can taste them and do some analysis, try and target our style to their style and look for a distributor; that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

When deciding on label changes, Peace visits different label companies and graphic designers, gathering ideas to create a shortlist, and makes his final decision based on consumer research and focus groups. “I’m not saying that’s the be all and end all, but we try to take some advice before making a change,” he says. The Andrew Peace Wines label was recently changed in the UK, and sales jumped seven percent within the first few months.

Peace prefers a hands-on approach to business, and spends time in each marketplace talking to buyers and distributors. “If you went out there without talking to the market, it’s more of a risk.” He also takes part in larger events and fairs, where he can talk to hundreds of people each day.

Having taken the time and care to create a popular product, Peace spends about $20,000 each year on trademarking. “Trademarks are underestimated,” he says. “Especially in a business like ours; at the end of the day your brand is very important because it’s the future of your sales.”

Trading in foreign currency is also taken too lightly, says Peace. “The exchange rate is a big problem for exporters, if you get paid in Australian dollars, that’s a plus,” he says. “At the moment we’re doing business in the USA and Canada in American dollars and that’s an absolute nightmare; we’re making a conversion loss.”

With his sights firmly fixed on the business’ future, Peace explains that his five-year plan still includes increasing sales, despite worries about another drought. “Currently our packaged sales are about 750,000 cases; we’d like to get that to about a million cases. That’s a big ask, but that’s what we’re looking to do in the next five years.”    

The Face of Wine

What does the move to ratify the World Wine Trade Group Agreement on wine labelling requirements mean for exporters?

“If we could have a standard label for a group of countries, it would be much better,” says Andrew Peace, from Andrew Peace Wines. “Especially if you look at it from Australia’s point of view; 80 percent of Australia’s wine exports are to six or seven different countries. Now if you could have one standardised label for all of those markets, that’s a saving right there.”

Having to print multiple labels is also a strain on our already struggling environment, he says.

Peace’s advice when it comes to labels? “Make sure that before you print your label you get the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation to approve it. A lot of people have a problem when they jump the gun.”

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