Family-owned Hawke's Bay wineries to tackle US and China markets

Sacred Hill, owned by David Mason, distributes its wines in more than 20 countries, with a focus on the US.
MARTY SHARPE/FAIRFAX NZ

Sacred Hill, owned by David Mason, distributes its wines in more than 20 countries, with a focus on the US.

Boutique family-owned wineries in Hawke's Bay are starting to think big.

In the past few months, at least two wineries have announced they plan to tackle big overseas markets in order to increase their presence around the world.

But multi-millionaire Sir Graeme Avery said breaking into major markets, such as China and the United States, was no easy feat.

Avery is the founder of Sileni Estates, which exports wine to more than 80 countries.

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However, just this month, the wine company secured a deal with one of China's largest retails chains which will distribute its wines around the country.

The new business relationship was four years in the making, Avery said.

"There is a lot of potential in the Chinese market, which is why we continue to invest in growing our brand there. But it is a market that requires patience.

"Per capita wine consumption is still low, so we anticipate growth will be slow."

China was thought to be among the top five wine-consuming countries in the world, he said.

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Wine was seen as a status symbol among the emerging middle-class in China, with growth driven by young people and middle-class consumers with higher incomes.

"It'll be another 10 to 20 years – or longer – before a true wine culture emerges in China, but we have to make a start and be prepared to put the effort into the market.

"So, for us, China is a market we put into our long-term development plan."

The company's major focus markets were Australia, Britainand the United States, Avery said.

"But no market is easy. You have to understand how each market operates depends on how much you have to sell.

"It's not rocket-science, but it's a lot of hard work, but you've got to be there."

Sacred Hill is also tackling a big market, announcing it will be focusing on the US.

Sacred Hill global sales and marketing director Glenn Cunningham said the company had to start thinking about new and bigger markets to continue to run a viable business.

"The US in the past four to five years has become really important to New Zealand ... it was the obvious next place to grow as the industry grew.

"There was a big swing towards the US because they don't have that dominance by powerful retailers, and sauvignon blanc has been the main driver."

Breaking into the US market created opportunities to engage in partnership, which would maximise distribution, he said.

"It definitely pays off in the long term."

While it was early days, Cunningham predicted it would be a successful market for Sacred Hill.

 - Stuff

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