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2014 Review and Hopes and Fears for 2015: Australian Vintage's Julian Dyer

Published:  26 December, 2014

Julian Dyer, general manager for UK & Europe at Australian Vintage, talks about McGuigan breaking into the Top 5 global wine brands in the UK, consolidation in the supply sector, and why he's back the WSTA's Drop the Duty campaign.

Australian Vintage's Julian DyerAustralian Vintage's Julian Dyer

Julian Dyer, general manager for UK & Europe at Australian Vintage, talks about McGuigan breaking into the Top 5 global wine brands in the UK, consolidation in the supply sector, and why he's backing the WSTA's Drop the Duty campaign.

How was 2014 for you/your business?

2014 has finished strongly for us, with our core McGuigan brand breaking into the Top 5 global wine brands here in the UK (Nielsen GB Off-Trade 52 weeks ending December 8, 2014), off the back of six months of solid growth. We're really pleased with that, but have our feet on the ground, as we operate in a tough market where you must daily earn your place. It's good that an Australian brand like ours has strong consumer appeal, and demonstrates that this UK market isn't just about own labels or tertiary labels, as is often portrayed, but is about the successful balance of all three: brand, own label, exclusives. Instrumental in our performance has been: 1. Quality at every price point; 2. Awards success; 3. Partnership with John Torode and consumer activations; 4. Great support and planning with our trade partners.

What do you think were the most significant things that happened/ issues/trends that occurred in 2014?

I don't think the pace of change has ever been faster than it has in the last couple of years. From a trend or consumer perspective the trend towards lighter, refreshment styles of beverages seems inexorable, and this has covered everything from flavoured wines to lower ABVs. This is an emerging category, and it is good to see wine innovation that meets consumer desires in the way that spirit and cider/ale innovation has successfully done. Craft ales aren't in my line of work, but I really like the emergence of this category as an authentic alternative that seems to appeal to beer and wine drinkers alike. We wine producers should be the guardians of authenticity and provenance, and it is a lesson to our industry to focus on the quality and the product story.

Another well-flagged trend is the change in shopping habits of consumers, as we all shop more regularly, more locally, across a wider spectrum of fascias and retailers. Retailers as well as producers need to be innovative and fleet of foot to thrive in this environment.

2015 will no doubt also see further consolidation in supply, which puts pressure on any legacy agency businesses, unless they are highly specialised, as the successful ones are.

The other significant, but sad, event in my sector was the devastating loss of Yvonne May. She was a tremendous leader of Wine Australia and was pivotal in re-engaging the Australian wine agency. A terrible loss. 

What opportunities are you most looking forward to working on in 2015?

Most of those are secret...!

I look forward to working closely with Laura Jewell, the new chair at Wine Australia. It's a real coup to get her on board, and I have no doubt she will do a really great job.

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2015?

I truly hope there will be no duty increase at next year's budget. And I will certainly be backing the WSTA's campaign to lobby for a reduction in duty. Wine has been unfairly penalised with higher duty increases over recent years than either spirits or beer, and this unequal tax burden has to stop. Ultimately it will stymy the ability of the category to grow and employ.

Who are the people/companies/retailers to watch in 2015?

I'm afraid I'm too political to make a comment... I wish everyone everywhere great success. I'd love to sell McGuigan to all of them. I can say that McGuigan is one to watch!

What are you doing for Christmas and New Year?

I'll be having a few days off with my family, with my mum staying up for most of it. The highlight will be seeing Treasure Island at the National Theatre on Boxing Day. I cannot wait.

What will be your favourite tipple over Christmas and New Year?

I've got a few bottles of The Philosophy, a 2010 super premium Cabernet Shiraz launched by Neil McGuigan this year. Should be lovely from a decanter.

Favourite Christmas film?

It's a Wonderful Life, no contest.

Although Atlantis and Doctor Who will be highly favoured by all the family!

Ideal day out over Christmas period?

Treasure Island on Boxing Day at the South Bank, priceless.

What do you want most from Father Christmas?

Well, I'll probably just be getting a couple of books if I've done well. My kids seem to get all the best things.

New Year's resolution?

Sell more!