Business Leader recently spoke to Simon Lawson, the General Manager for Casella Family Brands Europe (CFBE) about the unparalleled growth of the global wine company, the current state of the industry, and how the leadership within the business has guided them through the coronavirus pandemic.
Can you explain the history of Casella Family Brands?
Casella Family Brands is Australia’s largest family-owned wine company, founded in 1969, today led by Managing Director, John Casella. The family’s rags to riches story has been told many times over and is still one of the most remarkable in Australian winemaking history.
It begins in 1957, with Filippo and Maria Casella setting sail from Italy to Australia to find a better way of life and eventually settling in Yenda, New South Wales. In 1965 they purchased Farm 1471 in Yenda, and, after many years of hard work and struggle, things really changed with the creation of [yellow tail] in 2001. This was driven by John’s vision to create an approachable wine that consumers wanted to drink and could easily understand.
Since then it has grown to become one of the biggest and most loved international wine brands, with a presence in over 60 countries around the world.
[yellow tail] has grown strongly over the last four years, and has now become the fastest growing wine brand in the UK.
In 2014, Casella bought the iconic Peter Lehmann winery in the Barossa, Australia’s most famous wine region, and over the course of the next three years added Brands Laira from Coonawarra, Morris of Rutherglen and Baileys of Glenrowan wineries to the portfolio.
What sets Casella apart from other businesses?
Underpinning our approach to the markets we serve is the fact that we consistently invest in our brands for the long-term – whether that is in vineyard management, winery improvements or marketing.
Our aim is to provide long-term and sustainable value growth for all stakeholders involved; from our grower and employees, to our customers and consumers. We are building a business for the next generation. [yellow tail] has benefitted from sustained investment to become the UK’s fastest growing wine brand, with volume +25% to May ’20 (Nielsen), adding £41m to retail sales value.
How has the company adapted to the impact of COVID-19?
As we saw the pandemic developing, we withdrew from trade activities in early March and quickly moved to ensure that everyone could work from home. We initiated that a week before the UK lockdown.
We focused the business on three goals: safety of our people and those of our partners (suppliers and customers), availability and allocation of stock and of course management of cash flow and risk. At this time, I am delighted that all our people are safe and well, that we have yet to run short of stock and that our cash flow and credit control has been exemplary.
Having established that rhythm, we also turned our focus towards future demand. We adjusted our creative content on both TV and social media to make it appropriate for COVID-19 times, invested in additional TV advertising, upweighted our social media presence, and began to forecast the implications of the shift to local and internet shopping.
What does the future hold for the company?
For [yellow tail] we have seen a significant number of new consumers into the brand and we will work hard to ensure that the majority will stay with us and continue to provide the consistent value for those that know us already.
Our Peter Lehmann brand will be well set to build on its great quality and shine a bright light on the best of Barossa and Australia.
When we come to look back on this time, I firmly believe we will see many things for the better. When you own a brand like [yellow tail] you can only be optimistic!