Marthélize Tredoux: Breakfast with Distell

Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, Marthélize Tredoux
This week, I along with some other wine media and industry members cracked an invite to have a sit-down with the head honchos at Distell. We had been contacted and told that SA’s largest producer-wholesaler was interested in opening up channels of communication and that they intended to make this a regular occurrence.

Before we get into it, some context: There has been plenty of speculation around the dissolution of the Lusan Premium Wines (the joint venture between Distell and German financier Hans Schreiber which at one point involved Le Bonheur, Uitkyk, Stellenzicht, Alto and Neethlingshof) and the selling off of a number of wine farms and my feeling that this roundtable discussion was conceived – at least partially – because they wanted to take control of the discussion around this move.

We sat down with a number of Distell’s management, including Richard Rushton (CEO), Lucas Verwey (Director: Finance), Bridgitte Backman (Director: Corporate and Regulatory Affairs) and Steve Nathan (Director for International Operations). Rushton welcomed us and indicated that the goal of the meeting was to convey some information to us on the company’s plans in terms of wine specifically and also to take questions.

It was a lengthy discussion, with management addressing most of the questions fired off directly and without too much corporate spin, and handling any and all criticism alluded to with candour. Going into the details of it all will be lengthy, but there are a few key points worth mentioning:

  • Wine makes up one third of their business (revenue and profit), but Rushton also pointed out that the company’s origins are firmly rooted in wine (and brandy). With that, despite selling off wine properties, wine remains a focus and crucial product category for them.
  • Dissolving the Lusan partnership was due to a number of factors, but in overview it can be said that the company feels it is spread too thinly across a number of premium wine brands, leaving them unable to build them all out to their full potential. As such, they are downsizing so they can focus on four key wine brands: Nederburg, Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap and Alto.

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