Last week, Independent Liquor Group (ILG) held its annual Family Reunion event at The Star Gold Coast. At the conference, the group reported an outstanding year of growth and highlighted its success across several areas.

ILG CEO Paul Esposito spoke to National Liquor News about the group’s performance, and the highlights that were reported in the AGM.

“FY23 broke all records, highlighted by a huge uplift in sales revenue, record return to members and record membership. These results have been delivered on the back of a strong strategic plan to build a stronger ILG.”

In the CEO Report, Esposito detailed an increase in sales revenue for ILG from $414 million to a record high of $497 million, an increase of 20 per cent for FY23 and 82 per cent over the last three years. Over the year, members have also received a high of $17.7 million combined cash and non-cash benefits.

“This year’s performance is record breaking, we’re the second biggest wholesaler. Our target this year was to achieve $550m, we’re probably on track to hit closer to $600m.

“Moving into Victoria, the level of demand and interest of independence in Victoria has been overwhelming. We hope to be trading in Victoria by mid-November.”

The small distribution centre in Bacchus Marsh Victoria is one of three distribution centres currently in ILG’s network, with the larger Victoria warehouse in Dandenong set to be operational later this year.

“New South Wales and Queensland are still experiencing double-digit growth, and regionally,” Esposito continued. “We’re seeing a lot of people in regional Queensland and New South Wales coming across because they like our platform, they like that they’re not told what to do or slugged with additional fees.

“Growth must be the focus in every part of the business. This year, and every year going forward, is going to be record breaking, because we’re not expecting to go backwards.”

The group reported an increase of 16 per cent in sales revenue in New South Wales, 21 per cent in Queensland and 33 per cent in Victoria.

Within the cooperative, the banner groups also experienced increased sales revenue, sitting at 33 per cent for Super Cellars, 23 per cent for Bottler and 19 per cent for Fleet Street.

Looking at the performance of liquor categories at ILG in comparison to national market data, ILG reported high levels of revenue growth across all categories, including 33 per cent for beer, 17 per cent for spirits, 24 per cent for RTDs, 22 per cent for wine and 13 per cent for cider.

“I think we’re so far ahead because we don’t have a cookie cutter approach,” said Esposito. “Our opposition tends to have core ranging, key retail and they restrict what they can do locally. We give our members the ability to trade for their community and trade locally. We give them all the tools they require, and we’ve given them the ability to be different.

“All the indications show that every category is in growth and basket sizes have increased. Beer is probably the softest performer for all of them, but [they’re performing well] because we’re not centralised, we give them the ability to be independent in their market and for their communities.”

ILG Board of Directors
ILG Board of Directors: (L-R) Paul Esposito, Peter Cox, Chris Grigoriou, Damien Bottero, Tracy Hatch, Ripple Parekh, Robert McGhee and Sergio Colosimo

During the AGM, members of both cooperatives voted on amendments to cooperative rules proposed by the board, with the intention of reducing administrative burden, future proofing the cooperative and ensuring good governance.

“Our cooperative rules are decades old, so we needed to align them with more modern rules and take a national perspective,” said Esposito. “The old rules would have hindered us moving forward, so all we wanted to do was ensure that both cooperatives aligned, and that the rules are updated.

“We’ve made some changes over the last few years, and there is still a bit more work to go, but we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves by doing it all at once. Right now, it’s about making transactions easier and giving directors equal responsibilities.”

Finally, Esposito shared an update on the formalisation of ILG’s charity undertakings, which formed the ILG Foundation in November last year. Having been actively involved in fundraising activities since its early inception, the group has raised close to $1 million in funds over the years, and the incorporation of the ILG Foundation provides a platform to continue giving back to the community.

While speaking to National Liquor News, Esposito explained that the AGM is crucial in providing an opportunity for members of the cooperative to hear about the success and momentum that ILG is experiencing.

“Being a cooperative, everybody who is in that room is a stakeholder. They want to see what’s best for the cooperative, and in return, what’s best for them. Overwhelmingly, our members seem to be supportive and very happy with what we’re doing.

“Our membership retention is brilliant, and we have up to a dozen new members joining us each week, so we’re doing something right.”

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