The New Zealand wine industry may be small by global standards, but contributes generously to New Zealand’s export drive – even during the face of a global pandemic.
2020 will go down as a year of uncertainty in all market sectors. While the worst Covid-19 may be behind us, its lasting impact on business revenue will last.
The New Zealand wine industry is valued at nearly $ 2 billion in exports, and is currently ranked number six in the return of our export sector. When NZBusiness Speaking with Philip Gregan, CEO of Winegrowers of New Zealand in early June, he said there was an increase in exports in March and April, followed by leveling the number of subsequent exports.
“In terms of impact on sales, we currently see two situations happening in the market,” he said. “While there is strong demand for New Zealand wines in supermarkets and online retail, which has benefited our industry, on the other hand many wineries that focus on hospitality and basement sales have been negatively affected.
“The challenge is when the borders are reopened and how long it can take us to physically return to the market – because this is where personal contact is very important, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
“As an industry, we are very much aware that we are in a very special position to be allowed to pick grapes, and throughout all the locking, our top priority is the safety of our people and community. The fact that more than 400,000 tons of grapes are harvested, and no Covid-19 cluster developed in our community, testifies to how our industry fully accepts the challenge of working safely during harvest. “
Gregan said they had heard countless industry stories about winegrowers overcoming adverse and stressful conditions to supplement what was a vintage star. Some members must let staff go during the lock harvest to comply with strict regulations.
“Instead they have to complete the entire harvest with a skeleton crew of family members and close friends.”
With New Zealand’s main export market locked, international borders closed, and no meetings allowed, New Zealand’s international promotional events and Winegrower’s educational activities must be postponed or canceled.
“We are quickly turning to virtual execution,” Gregan said, “creating digital initiatives to connect with trade such as ‘speed dating’ with buyers, and expert panel discussions – and connecting with consumers through podcasts, live streaming and webinars.”
Social media has also become a vital tool, he said, and a successful campaign celebrating International Sauvignon Blanc Day was recently carried out across all major social channels.
In China, where Internet penetration is the highest in the world, and digital innovation is everywhere, New Zealand winemakers have been able to experiment with several new approaches.
“With a wine show not possible, we created a ‘national pavilion’ at the newly created Lookvin Expo online, with strong interest from New Zealand wineries to participate,” Gregan said.
“Also with the movement towards live streaming, and booming real-time interactive video content, we are moving quickly to join the trend – holding online live streaming courses with influential Chinese wine media that has a combined reach of more than 19,500 wine lovers and increased traffic to the New Zealand Wine e-commerce platform on Tmall and JD.com. ”