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Enotria's Troy Christensen on what next for supplier and retailer relations after TescoGate

Published:  07 November, 2014

Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria, tells Gemma McKenna what's going on at the supplier, the state of distributor retailer relations in light of TescoGate, and what we can expect next.

Troy Christensen, chief executive of Enotria, tells Gemma McKenna what's going on at the supplier, the state of distributor retailer relations in light of TescoGate, and what we can expect next.

The trade has been expecting big things from Troy Christensen since he re-emerged on to the UK wine trade scene, but it looks like we'll have to wait and see what's coming next for the firm. Until 2012, Christensen was chief executive of Accolade Wines and before that president of Constellation. Gemma McKenna caught up with him.

Troy ChristensenTroy Christensen

How does it feel to be back in the UK wine trade?

"I'm glad to be back. Enotria is a bit of a different business than my prior life. Clearly I have aspirations of doing some big exciting things, but unfortunately some basic things need sorted out first.

"The government is putting a high speed rail line through the office - we've been here for 40 years - so it's all those kind of unsexy boring things.

"Passion may have overtaken commercial sensibilities on some things in the past," he said, adding that the company is now looking to redress that balance.

How do you think the UK wine trade is faring now - especially given news of recent consolidation of the supply base?

"We need to look at other things in the trade to work at being more innovative. Consolidation for consolidation's sake won't help the wine category.

He said the trade needs to get behind 'brand wine'. "Consolidation and cutting back office costs is not neccesarily going to do it," he said.

What do you make of what's happening with the major retailers?

"All eyes are on Tesco", Christensen said, adding that the Tesco way of working was not necessarily any better or worse than other retailers. "It's been the normal course of business. But how that is accounted for is a different kettle of fish," he said.

"They brought in a  new CEO, he's cleaning up, and a few people have been caught up in the wake. Dan [Jago] is a great guy and ambassador for 'brand wine'."

He said the actions of new Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis suggested that Tesco would no longer engage in such practices - but questioned how that will transition across supplier/retailer relations and what knock-on effect it could have on other important shareholders or other retailers.

"Is there anything else to come?" he queried, adding that the supply base was wary.

He called on the trade not to "beat each other up over the last slice of pie" but to work together to grow wine's "share of throat".

"In a flat market it gets to be a self-fulfilling prophecy where everyone is scrambling for what's on the table. We need to be resetting types of relationships."

Tell us about changes you have planned for Enotria.

"We have been premium driven and that business has been a good ambassador for the category. We're not a big player from a PR standpoint," said Christensen, adding that he was looking forward to "being a bit more of a leader from that standpoint in the New Year".

Enotria is also moving to a new site with double the size of its current warehouse and office space, partly driven by the government's plans for a high speed rail line. It is looking to double its office and warehouse space, and the group plans to be in by mid-February 2015.

"We're very customer-oriented. A lot of our competitors have outsourced the supply chain, but a lot of our strength in the on-trade comes from our strong service proposition. We think the service proposition works better when you control it yourself, so we decided to invest in another warehouse of increased size and scale."

"The company has grown quite significantly and just needed some processes and systems in place to keep up.

"Enotria was set up to originally be very Italian and in the last five years it has expanded quite significantly. It's grown from a £50 million Italian business to a £150 million one with wines of every origin from around the world," he said.  

Enotria by numbers:

Accounts filed with Companies House for year to December 31, 2013

Turnover: +16% to £124 million

Operating profit: +14% to £3.3 million

Profit after tax: £1.25 million (up from £976,000 in 2012)

Employees: 173

Directors described the results as "satisfactory" in a "very difficult market" and expressed "cautious optimism" for 2014. 

In 2012 BlueGem Capital Partners, a private equity fund, became the majority shareholder in Enotria, with senior management remaining as shareholders alongside BlueGem.