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Looking Back, Forging Ahead Q&A: Sam Thackeray, Enotria & Coe

Published:  05 December, 2022

Following another turbulent year for the drinks trade, Sam Thackeray, MD of Enotria & Coe, reflects on the highs and lows of 2022, plus the hopes and plans for the business in the year ahead

How has business been for you across 2022 when compared with 2019?

2022 saw a strong start for E&C with performance clearly ahead of 2019 from March through to September. We have seen a particularly strong post-Covid rebound in the national hotels and travel channels. This seems to align with everything we are seeing in the news about pent up demand and the unabated enthusiasm of consumers to take advantage of their newly regained and appreciated freedom.

Regionally, sales in London have come back very strong. This is in part owing to the addition of the new Wine Development Team, who are acting as ambassadors for Enotria’s wine credentials and developing an incredibly strong pipeline of premium business. Again, the opportunity in this channel has been strong because post-Covid consumers want to feel that their on-trade experiences are memorable enough to warrant them leaving the house. We are very fortunate that our heartland is in building relationships with precisely the kind of venue that offers this level of experience and continues to attract business.

What, for you, were the specific highs of 2022?

Last year was pivotal in Enotria & Coe’s sustainability journey. As Harpers’ Sustainability Champion, many of our initiatives and successes have been shared with your readers. I have had great satisfaction from seeing how different people across the business sitting within a range of functions have come together around this common goal. This unanimity of purpose has allowed us to defy expectations in terms of how much we have managed to achieve since setting out on this journey in January 2022.

Another high was our Fine Wine tasting at the Royal Albert Hall, where we showcased some of the outstanding new producers we have welcomed to the portfolio, alongside revered names of the winemaking world. We were particularly proud to welcome the likes of Domaine Sigalas, Frescobaldi, Susana Balbo and Marco Felluga to the E&C fold this year.

Both of these factors contributed to a number of significant and high-profile new business wins across the business, which are another cause for celebration.

And the lows?

I would imagine that most people in the industry will give you the same answer to this question. Supply chain issues have been a daily challenge since 2020, but this year they have been exacerbated by the energy surcharge, glass shortages, labour shortages and even outright unavailability of raw materials or components made in Eastern Europe owing to the invasion of Ukraine.

More specifically, how has the cost-of-living crisis and inflationary pressures impacted and what as a business have you done to help mitigate the effects for you and your customers?

As a business, we have done our utmost to support our customers with consistent pricing throughout the year, resisting our obvious requirement to increase prices with every inflationary measure thrust upon us. We believe this is a crucial element of being a reliable partner to our customers, as the stability this has afforded them in an otherwise challenging market has made it easier for them to plan and budget.

So far, the trade has remained relatively buoyant in the face of the cost-of-living crisis. Corporate hospitality budgets for the full year were set in stone before the true extent of the cost-of-living crisis became apparent, which has helped the more premium end of the market, where Enotria is dominant, to remain resilient.

We will have to push through price changes in February 2023. We have done our utmost to mitigate the effects of this by communicating consistently and transparently with our customers about the pinch points we are facing.

How much of a concern is the proposed change to the duty regime?

Despite continued pressure from the alcohol and hospitality industry the government has removed the freeze on duty for next year. If early reports are to be believed, this could well be at a level of 12%. In addition to likely double-digit cost of good increases, this will likely mean a level of price hike the like of which has not been seen during my own 22 years in the industry.

The only consolation for hospitality is that everyone is facing a level playing field here. It’s simply unfortunate that end consumers in a time of financial squeeze will bear the brunt.

In terms of the product itself and drinking occasions, which current trends in the drinks world would you predict to continue to grow and why?

‘Premiumisation’ and ‘quality over quantity’ have been buzzwords since 2019, but neither trend shows any sign of waning. Cocktails saw a lockdown boom, and this is very much still in evidence too across all channels. Many outlets are now beginning to look for speed of serve and convenience, while still being able to cater to these consumer demands.

As a business, what goals have you set for 2023 and how do you expect to achieve them?

We are very much looking forward to holding our annual tasting at the beginning of 2023. The London leg will be on Monday, 27 February at The Brewery, and the Edinburgh leg on Wednesday, 1 March in the Assembly Rooms. Our last annual tasting was in September 2021, so we are excited to welcome more of our producers to the UK, who were still not allowed to travel internationally in 2021. This annual tasting will be a key launch for a select group of new producers to the portfolio, and also a wonderful opportunity to promote our sustainability goals through a panel discussion co-hosted with the Sustainable Wine Roundtable.

We will continue on our sustainability journey on 2023 with a range of clearly defined targets throughout the year. We have outlined clear targets in reducing our environmental impact, promoting supplier compliance with our goals, reducing packaging and waste, working towards more clearly defined and more ambitious charitable giving targets, more actively and consistently promoting employee wellbeing and gaining formal certification for our efforts through a series of audits.

More generally, in terms of business, how do you predict the drinks landscape will look this time next year?

Alcohol sales in the UK have traditionally been counter-cyclical to the economic environment; that is, people continue to purchase alcohol products during a recession (and cut back on alternative luxuries). In the past, retail sales have tended to become more dominant as people stay at home and imbibe there.

This current economic downturn may well be different in this regard as retail wine sales are down and the after-effects of lockdown mean that people are willing to spend their money in the on-trade, with experience to the fore. I see the landscape splitting in two for both the on-trade and off-trade; the lower end and premium parts of the market (whether that be brands, products or outlets) should thrive. It will be the ‘squeezed middle’ that is likely to suffer, so mid-tier casual dining and, in retail, that £7-9 category. I would love to be proved wrong on this, and that UK consumers defy the doom and gloom and continue to spend their hard-earned money on better quality products.

Quick fire questions:

Champagne or English sparkling?

Either. But prefer Blanc de Blancs.

Cocktail or straight spirit?


Riesling or Chardonnay?

White Burgundy

Pinot Noir or Bordeaux-style blend?

Pinot Noir

Michelin starred or relaxed bistro?

As long as the wine is good, I’m generally happy anywhere

Desert island tipple?

Piña colada – always the first thing I order on holiday