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The fast pace of innovation in the food industry is unrivalled by most other sectors. Over the past few years we have seen gluten-free rise from a handful of products to become a well-established and multi-million pound category, while other free-from sectors have also emerged. This year vegan products look set to take centre stage. Consumers are already flocking to stores with glee, happy to try out fishless fishfingers and dairy-free brownies, alongside Gregg’s much-publicised vegan sausage roll.

An age-old question in the drinks trade is whether tequila will ever be able to shed its negative image, although some in the industry would argue it is already well on the path of transformation from boisterous party drink to respectable spirit.

A group of wine producers and students gathered at the WSET’s London offices this month to learn from the team behind the successful I Heart brand.

Beaujolais: nouveau niche

20 November, 2018

The beleaguered winemakers of Beaujolais are celebrating after 2018 delivered the sort of vintage that can save many from biting the dust. Hail ravaged the region in 2016 and 2017 and some producers feared for their livelihoods as they headed into this year. But Mother Nature smiled on the area to the north of Lyon this year and superb conditions led to a large crop set to yield high-quality juice.

A movement called mindful drinking is gathering pace across the UK as Brits seek to moderate their alcohol consumption and lead healthier loves. A fifth of British adults are now teetotal, BWS column sales are in steady decline and mindful drinking festivals are springing up across the country. The drinks industry could see this as an impending disaster and decide to sell up shop and get into something like Bitcoin, cannabis, avocados or quinoa instead.

Whisk(e)y accounts for 21% of all UK spirits sales and it dominates the off-trade channel, but there is still a massive opportunity to grow the category further. It vastly under-trades among female consumers and younger adults, and retailers can reap the rewards if they compose exciting ranges that appeal to a broader demographic. For that reason we decided to launch Think Whisky, building on the success of our popular Think Gin and Think Rum events, in order to help them share best practice.

This April the dam levels in the Western Cape slumped to a low of just 18% and South Africans were bracing themselves for Day Zero.

Is orange the new white?

10 September, 2018

With Aldi leading the charge, orange wines could be set for a baptism of fire in the UK, finds Sonya Hook

South Africa is perfectly poised to grow its presence across the board in the UK market, from convenience and the multiple retailers to fine dining establishments and independent wine merchants. Excitement among UK buyers is high due to the energy and passion coming out of South Africa, but compiling an effective range can be challenging. This guide will therefore help retailers put together an ideal ranging and merchandising plan and boost sales and margins.

Sir Ian 'Beefy' Botham is best known for his astonishing cricket career, but he's currently enjoying a run as a wine producer. He tells Martin Green he's hoping for a long innings in the game

Imagine you could buy the Mona Lisa for half price. Not the real thing, but a fake that could even fool the experts. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece would still be beyond most of our pockets. Now translate the idea across to wine. Say you could forge some of the world’s best wines, market them under your own label, avoid legal censure and knock them out to punters at a price they could afford. Why wouldn’t you?

Rum: the stuff of legend

20 July, 2018

Legend has it that Admiral Horatio Nelson’s body was put in a rum cask to preserve it for transportation back to England following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. He had just defied the odds to secure a decisive victory, constantly thwarting Napoleon and defeating a combined French and Spanish fleet, and he was due to receive a glorious open-casket funeral. But the navy officials who received his body discovered the sailors had drilled a hole in the cask and sucked it dry, leaving Nelson semi-pickled and unfit for an open casket.

Eric Idle once declared that American beer was like making love in a canoe – “fucking close to water”.

Over the past 12 months, the McGuigan wine brand has slipped quietly into the number three position in Nielsen’s stats for the UK off-trade, gliding past Blossom Hill. Echo Falls is within its sights, though overhauling market leader Hardys could still be some way off. Unusually for the chief executive of a public-listed company, in this case McGuigan brand owner Australian Vintage, coveting the top slot isn’t the number one priority, says Neil McGuigan. 

Drink is a compelling topic – for its friends, for its enemies and for all those in-between. And in August a new name will join those flapping around the flame. But Richard Piper isn’t saying what it is yet.

The team of wine advisors at fine wine investment company, Cult Wines, tells DRN what to look out for when it comes to seeking out wines that can increase in value:

Gaining the youth vote

15 June, 2018

The over-45 age group now accounts for more than three-quarters of BWS sales in the UK as younger adults increasingly turn their backs on alcohol. Kantar stats for the year to March show that 76.5% of volume sales go to the 45-plus demographic, with just 23.5% bought by younger adults. In the past year volume sales among 18 to 44-year-olds declined by 7.5%, while volume sales among the older generations grew 2.9%. 

Running busy stores means that most the retailers heavily rely on trade press for news, updates and information on product and consumer buying trends so that they can stay ahead of their competition. With the change in consumer buying behaviours and a move away from the weekly big shop, the Convenience sector is thriving and has become a key target battleground for the major wines, spirits, beer and cider suppliers. DRN has produced and in depth guide and highlighted the key opportunities in this burgeoning sector with an overview of the Convenience market, retailers’ views, consumer trends within this sector, experts on plus tips and advice to Convenience retailers on how to make the most of their drinks sales.

More than 12 million sun-loving Brits jetted off to Spain in the past year and Barcelona was the most popular destination. It is easy to see why this enchanting seaside city is such a hit, as it is teeming with architectural treasures, the world’s greatest chefs and beautiful Mediterranean beaches.

In November 2017, Conviviality was riding the crest of a wave after share prices hit a record high of 426p following a raft of acquisitions.

Swindon and its environs have several claims to fame, from yielding James Bond creator Sir Ian Fleming to creating what is surely the world’s most complex roundabout.

When overworked news editors have a gaping hole in their papers, they can always rely on the anti-alcohol lobby to supply a scare story about the nation’s drink problem.

There’s a picture of the playwright Robert Bolt above the bar at Cork of the North, a hybrid-style wine merchant in Sale, on the south of Manchester.

Collaboration is a hot topic among independent wine merchants as they bid to increase margins, overcome barriers to trade and fend off the multiples. We caught up with Tim Carlisle, new business manager at Vindependents – an agency owned by and solely catering to indies – to explore the pros and cons of working collegiately. 

The family business

19 March, 2018

It has become accepted wisdom that the male of the species needs a space of his own to escape the pressures of family life.

Vodka: Coming up Trumps

15 March, 2018

When Donald Trump licenced his name to a US vodka brand in 2005, it seemed like a drinks category that could do no wrong. That was back when the idea of Trump becoming president seemed as likely as the Pope announcing his engagement to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spirits industry’s star category provided the teetotal entrepreneur with a more credible roadmap towards world domination.

Mike James is the driving force behind an Aldi wine range that punches well above its weight when it comes to winning awards, earning column inches and growing retail sales. He has a strong track record of making shrewd decisions, exhibiting flair and dynamism in his buying choices and helping to shape the nation’s drinking habits. It has made him a serial number one on DRN’s Most Influential People in Wine list and earned him a reputation as one of the country’s most skilfull buyers. 

Age and beauty

26 January, 2018

In 1780 the good folk living along London’s Old Broad Street were abuzz with the news that a new wine merchant was opening on their doorstep. Edward Bland Corney’s shop sold only a limited range of port, sherry and Bordeaux, but it flourished and evolved into Corney & Barrow, one of the great names on the London wine scene. The old store is now consigned to the history books, but in 2018 the firm boasts thriving sales to private clients and a range of on-trade accounts, with a turnover of £60 million and offices in London, Newmarket, North Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Ayr, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Last month DRN surveyed 400 readers on what they considered the greatest threats to the future health of the drinks industry and the anti-alcohol lobby came second.

Midnight plane to Georgia

24 January, 2018

Georgia has been revealed as the birthplace of wine by an international team of scientists that found evidence of viticultural processes dating back to 6,000BC.