Accolade boss gives backing to the UK

08 October, 2012

Accolade Wines has outlined its commitment to the market despite launching a review into its UK operation.

Chief executive Troy Christensen confirmed its commitment following the recent restructure that saw the departure of European commercial general manager James Lousada, with Paul Schaafsma – former Australian Vintage head – taking up a new role of commercial manager for the UK and Ireland.

Christensen said the decision to appoint a commercial boss to oversee the UK – where Accolade sells brands including Hardys, Echo Falls, Stowells and Banrock Station – would give the market more focus and enable it to have a different strategy to the rest of Europe.

He added that Schaafsma had been given 90 days to review the UK business and report back to Champ, Accolade’s venture capitalist owner, with his recommendations.

Christensen said: “The UK is an important market, it’s an engine room. We want to grow and make it as profitable as possible.

“There will inevitably be some changes. Paul’s a smart guy, that’s why we got him in. I know many sizeable companies which have diminished their interest in the UK, but we are not going to do that.

“We want to have more focus. Before we were looking at the UK and the rest of Europe together. Some of the global retailers are looking to expand and we think we are the ideal partner because we have global capabilities. We have facilities all over the world and can offer bottling and supply chain expertise.

“It’s a tough economic environment in the UK and I don’t see that changing over the next 18 months.

“We have set out a long-term vision, moving the UK into more sustainable price points while leveraging supply chain capabilities for the benefit of the industry.

“Although Champ finds the global wine dynamic challenging, we have achieved what we set out to do in the short term.”

Schaafsma added: “I am spending 90 days getting around the business to understand it and come up with a three- year plan which compliments what the company wants, but also brings my own style and ideas. It is critical that we pre- serve the health of our brands. We have the number one Australian brand and our South african portfolio has won over 100 awards.

“Any new manager is going to bring in some kind of change. I intend to talk to all our major customers over the next few weeks and listen, to develop a busi- ness plan that fits with what they want and to ensure there’s a team to deliver that too. For me, it’s about relationships and working collaboratively, something everyone in the company could do better.”

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All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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