Over the past five years, Treasury Wine Estates’ (TWE) commitment to building premium wines from some of the world’s best winemaking regions has seen it evolve into a global business that now sells wine into more than 100 countries. As the business’ global footprint has evolved, TWE has focused on driving growth in Asia and its best-known label – Penfolds – has been at the centre of its success story in the region, particularly China.
Today, TWE is the largest single importer of wine in China thanks to a real commitment to building relationships and developing a deep understanding of its customers and consumers.
GET CLOSE TO THE CUSTOMER
Most wine imported into China is managed by distributors or négociants and sold through a Chinese distribution network, which can limit the wine producer’s influence on how its brands are managed and distributed.
CFO Matt Young says TWE’s global strategy is to consistently build routes to market that enable it to be as close as possible to the consumer, particularly for its luxury wines, allowing the business to influence how its brands are marketed and priced.
In 2015, TWE made a significant change to its route to market in China, forming direct relationships with Chinese retailers, e-commerce providers and wholesalers. This gave TWE direct access to retailers and paved the way for expansion into further provinces and cities. In 2017, TWE opened its first warehouse in Shanghai, creating more flexibility in how it distributed wine to its new partners.
These decisions allowed TWE to establish closer relationships with wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Young explains: “Making the decision to establish a more direct route to market has been key to our success in China because we’ve been able to open up and build new relationships. These relationships have helped us gain a better understanding of the Chinese market and consumers.
“The strategy has also allowed us to invest more in our team on the ground, along with advertising and support for our brands, and in doing so make it easier for Chinese consumers to get to know and enjoy the quality of our wines.”
KNOW YOUR INVENTORY
Understanding how to target consumer demand and manage supply chains as seamlessly as possible is critical to the success of any consumer goods business, particularly a wine business which often has longer, and global, supply chains.
Detailed analysis of wine sales and inventory in trade allows TWE to effectively and efficiently allocate luxury wines to markets and customers which are growing, while managing customer stock levels appropriately. TWE manages this challenge by investing heavily in its own data collection systems. In mature wine markets, TWE can source retail sales data from specialist companies like Nielson.
In China, where this level of monitoring of data by external firms is not yet as sophisticated, TWE collects and analyses data directly from its customers on a monthly basis and employs a third-party firm to undertake audit procedures to check stock levels. Senior leaders of TWE’s global business, including Young, visit China periodically to analyse this information in detail and, at times, make inspections. Young explains that this high level of vigilance comes at a cost, but it enables TWE to identify partners that require additional support, as well as assess the success of its sales strategy and promotional programs. “This process has allowed us to quickly identify and resolve issues – faster than others in the market.”
COMMIT TO MARKET
Growing TWE’s presence in China has not been without its challenges.
Young says the challenges have helped the company appreciate the importance of having deep relationships within the market and the need to have a local team with strong operational and sales experience.
“As we’ve grown in China so too has our commitment to weave ourselves deeper into the fabric of China beyond our relationships with wholesalers, retailers and consumers,” he says.
“This includes making sure TWE can attract talent as we grow our team in China, build stronger government and industry relationships and continue to invest in our operational capability, such as opening further warehouses in the future.
“These signal TWE’s long-term commitment to China.”