If you want to get the insider’s view of how Australian wine is faring in the US market, then Kathy Marlin isn’t a bad person to ask. Kathy has been in the wine trade since she was 18 and has risen to become the Managing Director of Negociants USA; a wine importers whose impressive portfolio includes leading Australian wine brands such as Henschke, Jansz and Jim Barry. Kathy was recently included in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s ‘Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers 2016’, and we caught up with her in order to gauge how well Australian wine is being received and perceived in this huge and hugely influential wine market. And as you’ll see, there’s plenty of cause for optimism, providing Australian wine brands are prepared to work toward a long-term place within the market.
Tell us about your role at Negociants USA?
My role at NUSA is to procure the best portfolio of winery brands from top regions for grape growing in Australia. To attract talented wine people to be ambassadors of the country, region and brand, and empower them to drive sales and marketing objectives forward in all 50 states of the USA market. My role also focuses on leading true partnerships with the distributor network and key influencers and customers across the country. Our portfolio ranges from premium commercial, to globally exclusive and allocated meaning our network is vast and incredibly important to our success.
What do you love about Australian wine?
Diversity of region and varietal, innovation alongside provenance and history. And the Australian wine industry? The sophistication of the people in the industry – technology leaders committed to learning and sharing.
What are you particularly excited about coming from Australia at the moment? Varieties? Styles? Regions? Winemaking techniques?
Cool climate resources, particularly Pinot Noir from Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills. In terms of winemaking techniques, it’s exciting to know how many are focused on sustainability both in the vineyards and in the winery – making quality wine while remaining focused on the environment.
Marketing to millennial women – what was your thinking and motivation behind this?
Quite an easy decision when you review the statistics. The millennial generation (younger and older) will add 15 million wine drinkers in the next 10 years. Shopper skew female, and their main purpose for consumption is to relax and celebrate. They seek their advice from piers and friends and social media marketing can resonate with them. Imported wines are interesting to this demographic at all price points.
What does the future hold? What role does Australian wine play in this?
Imported brands will continue to grow in the USA and with some of the other popular categories slowing their growth, it opens up a great opportunity for Australia to regain some of the volume that has been lost. New brands need to continue to come to the market, and premiumisation is essential for long-term brand and category health.
And the future for Australian wine in US, any tips for new-to-market brands?
Know where you want to be in the USA in the long-term. The US market is challenging to navigate but there are new and emerging routes to market. Many of these are great for today but will limit development into the future. If you want to have a sustainable and equitable brand for the long-term, make sure to keep that in view. We need brands that are more than just a passing trend to rebuild the category.
Opportunity for Australian wine in North America
Kathy’s message of opportunity for Australian wines and wine brands that are willing to look to the long-term is one we have seen other market insiders mention – specifically in China and the Nordic countries. Consumers globally are becoming excited by Australian wine again and are prepared to put their money into this interest.
Unlike the first explosion of interest in Australian wine back in the late 1980s, however, brands will have to work hard and be prepared to stay the course. Competition – especially in markets as important as the USA and China – is fierce and brands will have to adopt to these markets’ ways of working and give the consumers what they want. The future for Australian wine, as we have said so many times, is bright: we just need to work collectively to secure that future.
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