Celebrating our industry’s great people

04 December, 2019 by Deborah Jackson

L-R: Neil Hahn, Katherine Johnstone, Corrina Wright and Neil Bullock

The end of the year is always a great time in our industry as people everywhere celebrate the holiday season, and while others are winding down, many of us are flat out ensuring orders are delivered, promotions and campaigns are executed, and sales figures meet expectations. It’s a great time for everyone to celebrate their achievements during the year while savouring the best products our industry carefully crafts.

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While the industry is facing its fair share of challenges from a regulatory viewpoint (including pregnancy warning labels, National Alcohol Strategy, National Drinking Guidelines) it’s easy to forget what a fantastic industry we are in, which is largely down to the innovative and entrepreneurial people that work in it, day in and day out.

In the last month or so I have had the privilege to glimpse firsthand the passion, energy and commitment of the people in this sector. We recently commissioned a video to hero the people involved in the industry’s supply chain – from the farm to the table. We wanted to show how the industry continues to respond to changing consumer preferences, the increasing technology in every aspect of the supply chain and the people behind some of Australia’s most iconic brands.

What’s clear from the story is that in every aspect of the industry – whether it’s from the growers, the makers to the distribution centre, or to the retail shop and publican – there is focus on quality and ensuring consumer preferences are met.

Neil Bullock from Barossa Distilling Company is a great example.

He says: “Gin has been around for many years, and there is plenty of scope for great tasting products, but we need to evolve our product set to go where our customers are going. This means crafting non-alcohol and lower alcohol botanicals that still taste amazing but are reaching that growing sector.”

Mikey Enright, a stalwart of the Sydney pub scene agrees, he says “more people at the Duke of Clarence want to drink less, but they want more craft, and that’s exciting”.

Jonathan Lieu from Archie Rose adds that “people are looking for an experience – they don’t just come to us to go to the bar, they want to understand how we make our products, they want to craft something just for them, and they are interested in the providence of the ingredients. It’s the total experience that we can offer them”.

The retail scene has changed too, “Gone are the days of people buying in bulk, people want to savour their drinks with food, with friends and family, the biggest change in 40 years is that people are buying better, they buy less, but better quality products,” says Giuseppe Minissale, Porter’s Liquor.

“Drinking behaviour has changed,” says Dr Tim Cooper of Coopers Brewery. “Moderation is the new normal not just across the whole market but for young people too – and that’s particularly gratifying.”

In addition to changing consumer preferences, technology and improved customer service is a critical component of the supply chain. The ALM warehouse is one of the biggest distribution centres in the southern hemisphere, and their use of a robotic arm and computer-based picking and packing has meant real improvements to their business.

Katherine Johnstone, General Manager at ALM says, “our technology has really improved our customer service by speeding up the process and ensuring improved accuracy. We still employ a lot of people here on site, but we have reduced injuries significantly, such as back strains and knee strains, and this is great for our staff”.

Technology improvements are not limited to distribution or retail, they include innovations in growing raw ingredients that are vital to the production of high quality products.  Growers are focused on improved yields, water management, and soil analysis so they can continue to supply the quality and quantity of grapes, hops, malt or botanicals that are needed by the makers.

Neil Hahn, grower and producer at Hahn’s wineries, says: “Growing is in my blood, I have great memories of working out here with my Dad, but things have changed, with improved soil techniques and water management to keep the ground temperature down in this hot valley, we have had to really think outside of the square to produce what we need. There is still scope for improved technology in this business.”

What was apparent in each participant was the pride in their work, and the passion for the consumer. The sense that the industry is in great hands is also a critical factor – the idea that each person was thinking hard about the future, the changes that they were making in their business and the sense of caretaking for a future generation is really special.

In Corrina Wright’s own words (from Oliver’s Taranga): “I’m raising my kids on this farm, it’s the seventh generation and it’s great.” Neil Hahn echoes this too: “I have a great vineyard I can hand on to the next generation.”

So, here’s to the people that make this industry so great. Stay safe this holiday season, and all the best from Alcohol Beverages Australia.

This article was written by Kerri Osborne, the Media and Communications Manager of Alcohol Beverages Australia, for the December issue of National Liquor News.