Su's last AGM for WOSA

Tuesday, 8 October, 2013
Judy Brower -
Su Birch has been flying the South African flag as CEO of WOSA(Wines of South Africa) for the last 13 years.  She is moving on at the end of November and presented her last AGM report at Nederburg on Friday 4th October, 2013, where she received a standing ovation from the producers present.
I have been working in the wine industry now for 17 years at and we have worked closely alongside WOSA. I feel rather old now as I even remember working with WOSA's predecessor, SAWSEA, and their then CEO, Kim Green in 1999.

Johann Krige has been on the board of WOSA (also for SAWSEA) for 26 years, and he too will be standing down in 2014, once he has overseen the handover from Su to the new appointee, Siobhan Thompson.

In 2008, Su made some interesting predictions (some tongue-in-cheek I am sure) of what the world would look like ten years on; see the article: TEN YEARS ON. One of her predictions was that exports, which were then 360 million litres, would grow to 500 million litres by 2018.  Interesting to note the latest export figures are at 534 million litres already, with 5 years still to go to 2018.

Su came from the fruit industry, from CapeSpan, and having lived on the glorious Lourensford Wine Estate, she was no stranger to wine or exports.
She has trebled sales of South African wine internationally in the last 10 years - a major achievement.

The WOSA budget is not big compared to Argentia or Australia's generic marketing budget for wine, and she has often been under fire for not making more of an impact in the USA, but with the small budget WOSA has, it is not surprising that this market has not grown as much as producers would like.
We exported 23 million litres to the USA in 2012, but only 9,5 million bottled wine. The bulk wine is not sold as South African wine but as bag in box American wine. The bulk figure to the US goes up and down over the years depending on their supply situation and rand weakness. We have sold 30 million litres of bulk to France so far this year, but that is pretty much a once-off, driven by their short crop in 2012, and is also not sold as South African wine. So we judge our success or failure on packaged wine which, is now growing in the US.
Finland and Denmark combined, currently consumes as much bottled wine from South Africa as the USA, which shows the potential in the US where the price points are way better.  We certainly hope that with more emphasis from WOSA on the US market that the exports will grow significantly.

During 2013, there has been a heightened presence of the South African category in the USA, with a lot of focus on Social Media and reaching consumers through the traditional braai, which crosses so many cultures.
WOSA has also just appointed Jim Clarke as a permanent member of staff to the USA office to assist Annette Badenhorst. Jim is an established writer and has considerable experience of South African wine. Read more about Jim HERE.
The good old South African Braai seems to be a uniting force across all markets, and many consumer events across the world, arranged by WOSA, incorporate the smoky barbeque.

Su has been instrumental in ensuring that the wine industry operates as sustainably as possible by implementing the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (BWI). Over 130 000 hectares of natural area have been conserved by BWI producers in the last 8 years. This means that the South African wine industry’s conservation footprint is well in excess of its current vineyard footprint of 102 000 hectares. For every hectare under vineyard, an additional hectare of natural vegetation is committed to conservation – and this figure continues to grow.
She has also been one of the major advocates of South Africa’s Sustainability Seal, the first industry-wide initiative of its kind anywhere in the world, to promote production integrity from the vineyard to the consumer. This was followed by the introduction last year of an Ethical Seal, also the first of its kind, that confirms the implementation of fair labour practices by wine producers.

WOSA has an extensive online library of information to which all producers have access, and Su urged all producers to make use of this great resource.  WOSA recently held a report back on research they have done into East and West Africa.  There is plenty of useful and detailed information available in the library for exporters considering the African market and others. West African countries Ghana & Cameroon are already well-established wine markets, and South Africa is well represented there, but seems like there is room for more.

Su has been recognised across the world for her achievements and received the following awards:
  • 2005: Lanson Woman in Wine Trophy
  • 2007: Cape Master of Wine - Wine Personality of the Year
  • 2009: Drinks Business Woman of the Year Award
  • 2012: Honoured by Wine Intelligence as one of 10 Global Wine Industry Leaders of the past decade
  • 2013: Drinks Business Green Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award

During her time as CEO, WOSA has received the following accolades:
  • 2010: Drinks Business - Best Consumer Campaign
  • 2012: Drinks Business Green Awards - Generic Sustainability Award
  • 2013: Drinks Business Green Awards - Special Mention for Cape Wine
For more pics of the AGM & feedback, see HERE.

We wish Su the very best for her time after WOSA and also welcome Siobhan Thompson, who comes to the position with a wealth of experience in international marketing.  See more on Siobhan HERE.

Let's see what Siobhan sees in her crystal ball for the next 10 years!

Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at