Constellation Brands to invest in NZ to meet US wine demand - MD Simon Towns

New Constellation Brands managing director Simon Towns says key brands for the international market are Mondavi, ...
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New Constellation Brands managing director Simon Towns says key brands for the international market are Mondavi, Prisoner, Ruffino and Kim Crawford.

Constellation Brands New Zealand has a new managing director, Simon Towns. Oliver Lewis talked to the leader of the largest wine exporter in the country about his plans to grow the business.

What did you do before taking the job in New Zealand?

I was the senior vice president for strategy and business development for Constellation in the United States. It was very much about setting the five-year direction of the business across both wine and spirits. Prior to that, I was leading a sparkling wine business for Pernod Ricard in California, where we doubled the business over the space of three years.

How do you plan to grow Constellation Brands New Zealand?

The priority is investing here in New Zealand to meet demand in our largest export market, the United States. Next is making sure that we win in the market here at home. We want Selaks and Kim Crawford to be the go-to quality wines for New Zealanders, and we want to expand our portfolio and fill the gaps we have at the higher end of the market with smaller batch programmes from Selaks and Kim Crawford, development of new world brands and by introducing New Zealanders to our US portfolio.

Australia is another opportunity for us. Our brands have around a 40 per cent share of the New Zealand wine category in the United States, around 7 per cent in New Zealand, but we only have around 2 per cent of the New Zealand wine category in Australia. So we see Australia as a really good opportunity.

What about emerging wine markets, such as China?

Constellation Brands's strategy around emerging markets is to concentrate on the higher-end products and our brands that have global recognition. Our key brands for the international market are Mondavi, Prisoner, Ruffino and Kim Crawford. The reality is the US offers the biggest opportunity for Constellation Brands as a total beverage alcohol company and for our New Zealand brands. Today, New Zealand wine is less than 2 per cent of the US market so the opportunity remains immense.

What are your plans to grow the Drylands winery in Marlborough?

We are doubling our largest winery's capacity over the next few years, which is necessary to fill demand in North America. We are working with a local company to install additional tanks, so we'll have increased capacity heading into next harvest. It's a staged progression, so we can keep adding to it as demand increases. We're also planting additional vines in order to fill demand, which is increasing by around 10 to 15 per cent per year.

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Is it a good thing that the former New Zealand managing director, Sam Glaetzer, has been promoted in the United States?

I think it is fantastic. It is recognition both for the excellent things that have been achieved by the New Zealand business and for Sam personally. He'll be in charge of our wine making and production globally, so it should be a smooth transition. My goal is to continue to make the highest quality wine here in New Zealand and to be the standard-bearer for Constellation Brands globally.

 - The Marlborough Express

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