Looking back on 2023, Karl Martin, CEO of Hill-Smith Family Estates (HSFE), describes the operating environment as “incredibly challenging”, as inflation and interest rate rises impacted the cost of doing business.

As a local company that also operates internationally, HSFE has been able to see the resilience of the Australian market in such a time and celebrate it alongside some key wins in the year.

“In 2023 our Australian distribution business, Samuel Smith & Son, celebrated 100 years as a distributor of fine wines… It was nice to be able to recognise this milestone with our key partners and customers on the back of a strong Advantage Survey Report and wine supplier awards from ALM/IBA and Paramount Liquor,” said Martin.

“The world is a very different place today to what Samuel Smith & Son encountered as a distribution business established in 1923, however one thing that has not changed is that we remain a family wine business and we still see the industry as being a people business, with businesses and partnerships built on long-term relationships.

Samuel Smith & Son’s 100 years has been based on the mantra of ‘Knowledge, Service and Friendship’, values we still very much live by today.”

When it comes to the portfolio itself, strong performing labels include Yalumba, Jansz Tasmania, Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Heggies Vineyard and Dalrymple Vineyards, despite all their limited supply. Imported agency brands are seeing similar success, even with Champagne experiencing price increases off the back of smaller allocations. New products have also contributed great things to the portfolio, with brands such as Y Series Lighter and One to One by Oxford Landing seeing encouraging results off the back of strong distribution.

New products will come again in 2024, including a limited collection of Yalumba’s rarest and finest wines to commemorate a significant milestone – 175 years of Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery.

Other developments to expect in 2024 include a review of the business model to ensure resources are best aligned to market opportunities in what will be another challenging economic year.

HSFE will remain committed to reinvesting in its people, brands, viticulture, winemaking assets, systems, and processes while doing this.

“We will retain a focus on providing our customers with great omnichannel experiences, supported by a professional sales team representing our Samuel Smith & Son and Negociants Australia portfolios across all channels. We will continue to partner with our customers by collaborating on innovation opportunities while investing in our sustainability programs and digital marketing capability to improve accessibility to our brand stories and wine credentials for shoppers and consumers,” said Martin.

Sustainability achievements

HSFE has noted several key results on the sustainability front in 2023:

  • Louisa Rose, who was Head of Winemaking for 18 years, has taken on a new global role as Head of Sustainability.
  • A huge 99.95 per cent of grape grower vineyard areas have been certified by Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, in addition to 100 per cent certification of HSFE’s owned vineyards.
  • HSFE has measured a 22 per cent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions since the baseline year of 2011, with a transition roadmap now in place to achieve 50 per cent reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Silver membership and ambassadorship has been obtained with International Wineries for Climate Action.

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Leaders Forum issue of National Liquor News.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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