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Virtual reality is changing the world, from reducing errors made during surgery to bringing schoolbooks to life and enabling us to browse shops from the comfort of our own homes. It is an exciting bandwagon full of tech firms, rollercoaster designers, casino operators, neurosurgeons and Hollywood execs.

In 1973 New Zealand was selling almost 100% of its dairy products to the UK and had been doing so for a century. Then it received a call to say the market was closed because Britain had joined the EU, and it had to embark on the long and strenuous process of forging new trade deals with countries across the world.

By all accounts 2017 is set to be a fi ne year for South African winemakers and consumers. When it comes to South Africa’s export markets, the UK remains number on the list as the trade and consumers embrace the energy and style of an industry that also offers keen pricing to give Cape wine a competitive edge over many other nations targeting the UK trade.

Brands need provenance to survive in the modern cider category: those that can demonstrate a strong back- story and sense of place are thriving and those that cannot are falling by the wayside. British consumers are becoming more discerning about the products they are purchasing and are looking for genuine imports and local, independent producers, and that is a strong factor in Kopparberg’s success. It might not be a brand many in the UK immediately associate with heritage and provenance, but it has a back- story to rival any drinks brand on the market.

Denis O’Flynn was the managing director at Pernod Ricard UK and chairman of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. Here he discusses how to motivate a workforce within an already successful business to spur them on to greater heights.

Craft beer in America is still buzzing. The number of breweries is increasing at a rate of more than two a day and the movement now accounts for 12.3% of the national beer market. It’s a remarkable success story, given that it has grown from nothing in less than 40 years.

Whisky: Held in honour

08 June, 2017

Mark Angus, retail sales manager of whisky distributor Gordon & MacPhail’s shop in Elgin, has just been made a Keeper of the Quaich in honour of his special commitment to the Scotch whisky industry.

Innovation in wine

08 June, 2017

The London Wine Fair has shrunk somewhat in recent years – partly a reflection of consolidation in the market. Companies such as PLB and Bottle Green, which previously hawked their wares from some of the largest stands, are among the firms that have been swallowed up.

I Heart Feels the Love

08 June, 2017

Copestick Murray’s I Heart range has taken the market by storm since its launch in 2011 and annual retail sales have now broken through the £45 million barrier (Nielsen). It has surged into the UK’s top 20 wine brands and has the bestselling Prosecco and Pinot Grigio in impulse.

The lower the better

08 June, 2017

The low-alcohol drinks market has had more false starts than the average running of the Grand National. The first false dawn in the 1980s foundered on the triple whammy of poor product quality, a sceptical public and the absence of any social pressure other than not getting caught out by a breathalyser test.

We know that people are increasingly drinking less, but when they do drink they want premium options. On days when alcohol is off the menu this rule still applies – and in the soft drinks sector it’s the premium options that are soaring.

Craft beer is on everyone’s lips and it’s good news for both UK and global producers of all sizes. It would be impossible to fit a description of every beer launch into this feature, so suffice it to say there are many and the flavours are diverse.

Italian Renaissance

08 June, 2017

Prosecco has enjoyed a remarkable rise towards ubiquity in recent times, thanks to its uncomplicated taste and its status as an affordable luxury. “I’ll be there in a Prosecco,” laugh Brits to one another. “My superpower is making Prosecco disappear. It’s a classy and elegant drink. Two pints of Prosecco, please.”

Asda has hit headlines of late for selling a huge amount of £10 Champagne, offering three slabs of lager for £20 and stocking six bottles of branded wine for £24. It has consistently offered the most competitive prices on spirits and recently raised eyebrows when it unveiled a £5 fizz called Progrigio.

One million vines are being planted across England in 2017 to meet soaring demand for homegrown bubbly and still wines from grapes such as Bacchus and Pinot Noir. That is enough to fill Hyde Park, and the names of the producers planting the vines gives cause for excitement. 

Life beyond Prosecco

21 March, 2017

Britons are celebrating far too much, according to the latest sparkling wine data. A record 40 million bottles flew off the shelves in UK shops in the 12-week festive period of 2016, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s Q1 market report – a 12% increase on 2015.

More sparkling wine is making its way into our fridges, thanks to the nation’s insatiable love of fizz, but Champagne is struggling to attract any value growth, with a drop of 7% since June last year (IRI).

Here’s a beer recipe for you: take one northern, family-run brewer and blend it with a well-known grocery retailer to create a trio of craft beers.

Southern belles

27 February, 2017

The Languedoc-Roussillon region produces 16 million hl per year, making it bigger than Australia, Argentina, China and Africa in terms of output.

It’s easy to think that some of the UK’s most successful family-run drinks producers found fame slowly as consumers discovered the brands, and perhaps as each generation built on the foundations of the last.

Portugal: Off the beaten track

21 February, 2017

Wine-producing countries that fall outside of the top 10 might be out of the limelight but they can be ideal for independent wine merchants seeking value-for-money wines that are unlikely to be found in supermarkets. Portugal, which sits at number 11 in the UK off-trade, is a perfect example.

With the rise and rise of gin it’s no surprise a new wave of tonics is battling its way on to the shelves. Over the past year we’ve seen a number of premium brands entering the mixers sector, particularly in tonic water – a category which grew 12% last year compared with 2015, to £98 million (IRI). This compares with 5.2% for other mixers.

Tesco’s announcement that it intends to buy Booker could prove to be the food and drink retailing sector’s Brexit or Donald Trump moment. The high-ups in each business would have known it was coming, of course, but for the rest of us it was certainly something of a bolt from the blue – and for many in the mainstream drinks retailing arena it has the potential to prove as transformative as the two big political events that promise to reshape the world we live in.

The dramatic question “Is this the end of the Campaign for Real Ale?” was posed by the consumer organisation itself on the launch of its Revitalisation Project last March.

Concha y Toro believes it now owns more hectares under vine than anyone else on the planet, with 9,194ha in Chile, 1,142ha in Argentina and 468ha in California. It is a colossal player in the wine world, dwarfing all other South American producers, and its largest market is the UK.

Making more of France

18 January, 2017

Although value sales continue to slide for French wines in the off-trade (down 2.5% in the year to October 2016, according to IRI data), the one time of year when it fares better than most is at Christmas. And early reports indicate the 2016 festive season was no exception, with many Britons seeking out and trading up to well-known names such as Chablis, Sancerre and Côtes du Rhône.

Formats: The future of cans

18 January, 2017

Not so long ago cider was all about ice, but now much of the buzz surrounding this category is about small, or craft, cans and other new formats. Of course, these are not limited to cider – beer is streets ahead when it comes to diversifying into 33cl cans, and it’s a trend that shows no sign of abating.

Core Objectives

18 January, 2017

There’s nothing stale about the cider category at the moment. In the past year we have seen the growth of craft canned cider as well as a concerted effort from producers to flag up the authenticity of their brands, ranging from highlighting traditional English apple varieties to pinpointing the actual orchard and apple grower.

There is a sense that despite still being the dominant wine category in the UK, Australia has for some time been lying low and not fully realising its potential. Adverse exchange rates, greater competition from New (and Old) World rivals, the lure of more profitable export markets, plus a perhaps inevitable cooling off after the first great flush of pro-Aussie excitement have all taken their toll on the momentum of this country. But with industry confidence on the up, focus on the UK is on the rise again, and renewed interest has clearly been sparked among both UK buyers and commentators alike.

Kiwi wine producers branch out

15 December, 2016

NZ is big in Sauvignon Blanc and growing in Pinot Noir, but it has plenty more up its sleeve, says Sonya Hook