Thanks to the cool FB group, Social Media + wine administrated by Robyn Lewis, I heard about WINE Portal, a platform for wine industry professionals to share information about the wine sector, create connections and to collaborate.
Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA), the peak Australian body representing the grape and wine supply sector is developing the platform.
WISA Executive Officer Matthew Moate knows the industry well; after his studies in Wine Marketing at Adelaide University, he had his first job with JF Hillebrand, an international beverage logistic group.
After moving to Auckland, NZ, he joined JMP Holdings as cargo care specialist. They had developed the leading cargo insulation product, Envirotuff Thermal Liner, to protect wines from extreme temperature fluctuations during shipping.
Wine Roland – That’s some background, what are you doing now, Matthew?
Matthew Moate – For the past four years, after being involved since 2009 in a voluntary capacity, I have been the Executive Officer of WISA (www.wisa.org.au) which is the peak national body representing the suppliers to the Australian grape and wine sector. I have also been a member of the Winemakers’ of Australia Packaging Committee since 2009.
Matthew has written in the past about the need to be the change in order to effect change in wine, the workplace and in general life. This word, ‘change’, is the leit-motiv of interview.
… the point I make is that the world is changing, and if you aren’t willing to be part of it, you’ll lose
WR – In a post you wrote that “...to make the change each of us need to be the change“. Is it difficult to do this in the wine world?
MM – Innovation is often a highly over used word, I like to focus on commercialising innovation. That’s essentially ‘change’ and often that is hard. We need to make the effort to find time to get above our day to day operations and breathe in these opportunities.
… with the rapid pace of technology and changes to business models we need to stop making excuses why something can’t happen
WR – There are millions of vineries in the world, each of them with their way to make and sell the wine. How can they differentiate from each other?
MM – This is an excellent question and one that often wineries fail to ask themselves. Essentially, everyone is selling the same product, to the same consumers with little to no variation in the value proposition.
The best way to differentiate your brand is through the customer engagement and touch points.
I’d recommend wineries to be a customer of their product. Purchase their wine online and scrutinise the experience. Go to some of your stockist both on and off-premise and buy the product and engage with the staff about it. Understand what it is like to be a customer of your product.
Tech can play a massive role in this, however it can also be as simple as good old fashioned training in customer service.
Customers want to feel important. Make your winery about the consumer not about what you want to sell them. Make your business not something they like but something they can love.
WR – It’s a great marketing lesson, Matthew. Now, technology. What projects exist today in Australia about wine and technology?
MM – Through my role with WISA I see a lot of new technology as we act as a way for them to connect with the market.
In the past 2 or so years, technology that I’ve come across that’s impressed me has been in the areas of SaaS and IoT (Software as a Service, Internet of Things). With many wineries being SME operations, they have limited budgets and the SaaS model to access leading technology is great for them from a cash flow perspective. And there are a number of these solutions across the supply chain.
Matthew was introduced to a SaaS solution a few years ago; Altvin is a platform solution helping to improve efficiency and the process to design packaging and schedule bottling events for new or existing wine products all in one digital package online.
MM – From a rapid product development perspective, especially in the Buyers Own Brand space it saves a tonne of time and has boosted sales for a number of wineries by being able to deliver these prototype products visually in a virtual way to the customer within minutes.
WR – What other examples can you tell us about?
MM – The tourism and direct to consumer space is also quite critical for wineries. Consumers are demanding more than simple bar style cellar door tastings. As such, wineries are starting to develop and offer unique and bespoke experiences. The problem wineries have is how to market these experiences.
One SaaS company Rezdy is solving this problem so that wineries can put up these experiences and products for tourists on their websites, Facebook or other platform and have it available directly to online travel and booking agents. This opens up a whole new world of possibility from generating customers and traffic through the winery.
There is a relatively new player, Matthew discused with me; Ailytic (www.ailytic.com) which is a AI based system helping wineries to make decisions using sensors, software and IoT devices. They work with many of Australia leading winery brands.
WR – What about vineries using IoT?
MM – I recently visited the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in the USA and I’d highly recommend it to any person interested in seeing the latest tech in the wine world. What stood out for me was the data and IoT solutions on offer there that I hadn’t come across (not saying they aren’t available) in Australia.
At this stage IoT solutions are coming to the market and they are being investigated by the larger brands in Australia from a wine manufacturing perspective. In the vineyard IoT sensors etc are also growing in popularity and use.
Wine is really unique as an agriculturally based value-added product in Australia. Most of our agriculture and mining commodities we ship overseas as raw product with the value adding being done overseas. We then often buy it back…
Whereas while we do ship a significant portion of our wine in bulk there is still plenty of value adding that happens in Australia.
This is important to understand as it may be a reason why the uptake of new tech can sometimes be slower in wine than other manufacturing where these IoT tech companies perhaps focus their efforts. With the exit of the Automotive industry from Australia in October 2017 it will be interesting to see the opportunities for diversification into wine of IoT etc.
WR -The Australian vineyards average size is greater than our Italian ones (1 hectar). Does this help to use machines and automation as new solutions. Can you tell us about this from an Australian persepctive?
MM -Australia is quite a wealthy nation and that comes with its challenges. While wage growth has been mostly stagnant in recent years we still have relatively high minimum wages and low unemployment. This puts pressure on finding people to do labour intensive jobs and also the costs of labour for these roles. This is making automation and machines more and more important not just in wine making but also in the vineyards.
Matthew also spoke to me about technology from the harvester companies like Pellenc with their Selectiv’ technology that delivers fruit comparable to hand picking, or solutions like TracMap who have GPS software to save vineyard operators significant time in delivering and monitoring tasks for vineyard workers.
MM – The other challenge in Australia currently is electricity pricing; some of the highest in the world. This dramatically impacts the wineries who need it across their grape and wine production. The solar companies like The Solar Project and Solgen Energy Group are seeing significant growth in renewable investment to counteract this challenge. Solar technology and renewables also fit quite well with the manufacturing cycle of wine being largely in the warmer (sunnier) months.
The quality of power with wineries being in regional areas and often vast distances from the generators in Australia is also an issue and SCE Energy Solutions are addressing this through voltage stabilization and power factor correction technology.
WR – Brining suppliers, winemakers, grape growers and the wider industry together through your WINE Portal network must be an exciting opportunity?
MM – The WINE Portal is a leap of faith. In Australia there are close to 3,000 wineries, over 5,000 grape growers, 500 core supplier brands and over 100 different industry bodies at regional, state and national level. These organizations largely all operate in their own silo with often limited cross over. This can create wastage through duplication and also lack of opportunity uptake through lack of information sharing.
WINE Portal wants to create a single gateway or knowledge base for the wine industry, initially in Australia but has the ability to go globally. It takes the industry discussions outside of traditionally consumer centric platforms like Facebook and the very busy and noisy professional platform LinkedIn and creates its own dedicated digital environment.
It is an opportunity to share information and be a one stop shop for everything that anyone in the wine world needs to know about. That’s the aim.
We are also socialising training, learning and knowledge transfer. As discussed earlier, change can be hard. We are asking people to do something different and we need to demonstrate the value for them to do that. As more early adopters engage the value because obvious for everyone. It will take time and we are willing to be patient. The platform is constantly seeing updates in functionality and UX.
WR – As a New World Wine producer, Australian wines are widely appreciated. What do you think countries like Australia can learn from the Old World Wine producers and vice-versa?
MM – Isn’t there a saying – ‘Everything old is new again’? I take the example of the screw cap. In the late 90’s when I first started to buy wine to cellar they were mid 1990’s onward vintages and in the 2000’s when I was opening these wines I was so disappointed with the amount that suffered from TCA taint. This is the very problem why the screw cap was invented. But that had its own impact on the perhaps more old world dominated cork suppliers. It pushed for better quality and solutions. Now leading cork suppliers such as Amorim (www.amorimcork.com.au) are offering TCA Free guarantees on their products. As such in Australia we are seeing a resurgence in demand for cork. What was old is new…
The old and new world relationship these days is quite complementary in my view. We will drive innovations in grape and wine production and push each other to deliver the best experience for the consumer.
WR – Are the expansive distances in Australia a boost for digital innovation adoption in the wine world?
MM – WISA in some research focussed on the value of wine trade shows / events identified the biggest barrier to participation for our market in these events in Australia is geography, time and cost.
As the premise of your question alludes to the vast distances from Margaret River in Western Australia to the Hunter Valley in NSW down to the regions in Tasmania and everything in between is almost incomprehensible unless you’ve been to Australia.
In a recent China focused workshop that WISA ran, the speaker said that an example of a translation of McLaren Vale used that confused some Chinese tourists directly translated as “Wine Region 45 Minutes South of Adelaide”. They thought they’d just walk… not understanding that meant it was 40 Kilometres. In China 45 minutes by car could be just a few blocks walking…
So yes, geography is a huge barrier to innovation, commercialization and knowledge sharing in general. Digital technology can play a huge role in this area. But also, it is important for Australia to have a united industry that can put on events such as the upcoming Wine Industry Technical Conference and WineTech trade exhibition in July 2019.
This is a triennial event that brings the industry together and caters for all levels of the value chain no matter the size of the business.
Blended opportunities in using digital technology matched with live attendance I think is the future of our industry in Australia.
Matthew explained to me that supply chain traceability is a massive challenge for many industries and is becoming more and more important in wine. Transparency in the supply chain is also important, from the winery to the customers door. Furthermore, safety of the shipped wine, also thinking to environmental impacts are driving innovation in this space. Times are changing, and now wine lovers buy their bottles from their smartphone, so they want to know exactly when they will recieve them. This tech is the future for all logistics, and the increasingly popularity of online purchasing will only drive this technologies.
MM – Australia Post has recently launched Receva as a smart mailbox that opens for couriers, alerts you of your delivery and more. While I prefer the look and lower tech functionality for the price point of a ParcelNest you can see how digital tech solutions will continue to play a role in the supply chain for both commercial and residential deliveries.
Matthew discussed how transparency and traceability has significant opportunity with the use of smart labels. Currently they are more being trialed and investigated in the spirits industry marketing where margin products are higher. However, with these smart labels, customers can have all informations about the product and its travel from producer to final destination. And these little devices will be a great tool for marketing, identifying data about the drinking habits of customers.
I also see this tech being able to dramatically potentially impact product authentication in markets such as China where wines are a product targeted through counterfeiting.
Wow, Matthew’s insights have taught me a lot of stuff about marketing, about new ideas, but above all about change. If you’re involved in the wine industry, I suggest you join WINE Portal (www.wineportal.com.au), to exchange experiences, challenges, opportunities and of course solutions.
While Australia is really far away from Italy, who knows, I may have to make the trip Down Under to see all the amazing technology happening there! Thank you Matthew.