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Hunter sets sites on top line

The Hunter Valley wine industry has signalled it won’t be left behind in the chase for wine sales with the recent formation of a new regional promotion body Wine Hunter Marketing (WHM) under the chairmanship of Iain Riggs, managing director of Brokenwood Estate.

The launch of WHM has been initiated by industry concerns at a lack of a clearly defined and promoted Hunter Valley wine image.

An industry scoping project was undertaken in November 2004 followed by an industry workshop in early 2005 which led to the official launch of the body.

The objective is to raise an initial $200,000 war chest and to work towards $500,000 a year for promotional activities over the following three years.

Initial funding has been secured from the NSW Department of State & Regional Development, two local Councils, Singleton and Cessnock, other tourism related local organisations and major corporate supporters.

With about 150 wineries support is sought on a small dollar-per-tonne-crushed contribution typically in the region of $250 to $5000 depending on scale, with about $500 the average contribution expected of small producers. WHM is also seeking Federal Government funding support.

Key goals and objectives included better branding, positioning and promotion of Hunter Valley wines, and re-establishing the region as an iconic winemaking region. This is expected to be translated into long-term business sustainability by creating a more favourable market environment for Hunter Valley wine companies to use as a platform for greater distribution and sales.

A Situation Analysis indicated that the Valley had reached a challenging period in its evolution, with increased local, domestic and international competition. Distribution especially through declining retailer shelf space was another problem and while Hunter Valley wines have a very high level awareness, their value has been devalued.

The Valley is thus no longer recognised as a pre-eminent wine-producing region and although wine quality is good, the problem and solution is seen as of a branding, marketing and promotional nature.

WHM has also resolved it will work alongside existing bodies including the long-established Hunter Valley Vineyards Association and will not seek to manage existing promotional events, but will identify opportunities in major markets while working towards the aim of having a self-funding professional events manager in the region.

John Kennedy reports.

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