In the 2023 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, Empire Liquor reflects on 30 years of operation and looks to a promising future.

There can be no sugar-coating that 2022 brought a raft of challenges for Empire Liquor to navigate, as Owner and Managing Director, Brenton Quirini, explains.

“After a nine-year partnership, the unexpected decision by Asahi to cease exports of beer from the Fullers Brewery was our most significant disappointment for 2022,” Quirini says.

Empire Liquor, which has made its name as a specialist supplier of imported, particularly British, beers, has also faced challenges stemming from working with overseas producers.

“The biggest issue during 2022 have been the challenges relating to container logistics and localised strike action in the UK,” Quirini says.

“These delays have impacted regularity of departures and containers not being collected on the appointed date, resulting in some out of stocks. We hope that this will improve during CY23 and more in CY24.”

These issues have been compounded by high international freight costs – which Quirini does not expect to reduce until 2024. The company also had to adapt to domestic difficulties too, with Quirini citing significant cost increases of in-land transportation, alongside mandatory updates to Australian labelling.

Authenticity a point of difference

Nevertheless, there were also some key wins for Empire Liquor in 2022, with Quirini highlighting the increased diversification of the company’s portfolio – adding the Artwine, Pindarie, Vintage Longbottom and Break Free brands to its SA and NT wine offering.

On the domestic beer front, Quirini said he was also pleased by the “successful brand relaunch in South Australia for the Walkerville Brewing Co.”

Moreover, Empire Liquor has further expanded its import and distribution agreements in the beer side of its business too. 2022 saw new deals reached for England’s Wychwood Hobgoblin, Greene King and Old Speckled Hen beer brands, and for Scotland’s Innis & Gunn and Belhaven Brewery.

“The British beer range has seen strong ‘steady’ growth, driven and supported by on-premise and off-premise who see and appreciate our ‘100% Authentic’ policy as a key ingredient offering a real point of difference for their business,” Quirini explains.

And other imported beer categories have seen great success for the company too.

“Sales growth of our German brand Hofbrau in our new sales territories of Victoria and ACT has been very pleasing,” Quirini says.

A look ahead

Unsurprisingly, it is Empire Liquor’s British beer offering that will take primacy over the next 12 months.

“Our key objective is to grow our portfolio and reputation to be the ‘one-stop’ supplier of ‘Iconic British’ beer brands to the liquor trade,” Quirini says.

To support this ambition, the company will add new field sales reps, and implement a new B2B sales and ordering portal, with the addition of new sales channel opportunities. As with 2022, Empire Liquor is anticipating the continuation of certain issues – particularly freight and supply cost pressures.

But after 30 years in business, the supplier has weathered challenges before, and Quirini is confident in its ability to do so again – through building and maintaining connections in the industry.

“I’m always a brand custodian with longterm partnerships a key. Priorities are lasting relationships with our customers, always seeking to engage new customers and new brands, delivering added value and sales growth,” Quirini says.

“Brand stewardship is a core value and outcome that I strive for. We have enjoyed many wonderful relationships with our supplier partners dating back to our establishment year of 1993.”

Find more from the 2023 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum here.

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