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Wine Buyers' Forum to return in March 2015

Published:  07 April, 2014

Last month's Wine Buyers' Forum offered something very different for the UK wine trade: a two-day opportunity for back-to-back business meetings between suppliers and buyers.

Over a 24-hour period on March 10 and 11 over 100 buyers and 30 suppliers came together for what could be described as the first ever speed-dating event for the UK wine trade.

The new concept, which saw the trade congregate at Windsor's Beaumont Estate, is common in other countries, as well as in industries such as finance and insurance. It saw buyers and suppliers take part in a series of 30-minute one-to-one business meetings supplemented by a series of targeted interactive workshops.

Here's how it worked. Buyers requested a series of half-hour meetings with interested suppliers where they could either meet potential customers or build relationships with existing producers, agents and distributors. The back-to-back wine-buying meetings were arranged prior to the event and each attendee was handed their own personal schedule on arrival.  

Buyers also had the option of registering for different business workshops held across the two days. These focused on topics such as online and off-trade trends with Tim Wilson, of the Wilson Drinks Report; an analysis of the UK on-trade with CGA Strategy and a look at digital marketing with Sarah Abbott MW.

Wine consultant Angela Mount gave her insights into how to be a "buying ninja" with tips and experiences gleaned from her years as a former head wine buyer for Somerfield.

Another former supermarket head of wine, Justin Howard Sneyd MW, formerly of Waitrose and Direct Wines, and now wine consultant and winemaker, teamed up with Jerry Lockspeiser, chairman of Off-Piste Wines, to look at buyer and supplier relations and how the two sides could work together more efficiently (see box).

With a giant stopwatch clock at the head of the room counting down the designated 30 minutes per meeting, the forum kicked off.

The new format did take a bit of getting used to, as the usual round of chit-chat and small talk quickly fell by the wayside as attendees dived into the heart of the matter - was there anything of interest for the two parties to do business with?

Are we ready for this?

Overall, feedback for the event was very positive. Most attendees admitted they didn't know what to expect and had some reservations about how it might work, but the majority would return for another event with some potential minor changes.

One of those changes would be to have an open supplier table featuring wines from all those present so that buyers could taste wines from companies they did not have time to see.

Jeff Bowden, director of Templar, said: "A great start. It would be a good idea to have an open tasting table to try wines of suppliers you have not had a meeting with. I also would like to have seen an English producer."

Others would have liked the chance to taste more of the producers' wines at the tables during the evening dinner. Andrea Rinaldi, president of the UK Sommelier Association, said: "I was with five wine producers at the table for dinner, and I would have liked to try their wines."

Business workshops

Buyers were able to choose from a number of different workshops chaired either by Harpers editor Richard Siddle or guest speakers including:

  • Off-trade and online/digital update by Tim Wilson, the Wilson Drinks Report
  • On-trade trends update from Mark Newton and Matthew Crompton of CGA Strategy
  • Panel debate on pros and cons of buying wine direct, with contributions from Oddbins, Connollys, Oxford Wine Company, Vagabond Wines
  • How to make that relationship with your supplier work in your favour with Justin Howard Sneyd and Jerry Lockspeiser (see boxes)
  • How using social media and new and innovative ways of selling to consumers, can bring your wine offering to life, with Sarah Abbott MW
  • Panel discussion on how retailers are opening bars and offering a diverse range of products
  • Understanding the growing bulk wine market with Daniel Murphy of Murphy Wine Company
  • Why training your staff is vital if you want to make the most of your wine selection, with Raul Diaz of Jascots Wine Merchants.

The Wine Buyers' Forum, which is organised by the publishers of Harpers, William Reed Business Media, will return in March 2015.