Wine Intelligence’s new Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand reflects on starting his university’s wine club, being part of the Australian wine revolution, and why thoughtful innovation is the key to success
On Monday this week Rodney Sammut clocked on for work at Wine Intelligence for the first time. The former Head of Customer Insights at Endeavour Drinks Group (Woolworths) is joining Wine Intelligence’s Sydney office as Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, and brings with him two decades of experience in consumer insights and marketing in the Australian wine category, including stints in leadership positions at Fosters, Southcorp and McWilliams.
“I’ve been a long-term client of Wine Intelligence across a few different businesses,” Rodney recalls. “I have always been impressed with their dedication to the industry and admired how they continually find new ways to better understand wine consumers. I am really excited to now be part of this journey,” he adds.
WI: What initially attracted to you to working in the wine industry – and what keeps you there today?
RS: I was definitely a (very amateur) wine hobbyist before I joined the industry having started a wine club at University and spending a lot of spare time in liquor stores discovering new wines (I still enjoy that today). I kind of fell into the wine industry from a career perspective; I was working for a spirits distributor in the late ’90s and when they decided to expand into wine, I put my hand up to work on all the pitch documents and marketing material for potential wine suppliers. When we started to meet these suppliers, and taste their wares, it kind of became a no brainer – how could you turn down wine tasting at work! I then started actively seeking opportunities in the industry and haven’t looked back.
WI: You’ve witnessed huge developments in the wine category in Australia and New Zealand over the last 20 years. What developments do you expect to see in the next 20?
RS: Like the last 20 years, innovation will be the key to continued growth within the wine industry. Australia and New Zealand are in a great position to capitalise on this growth as they have a history of innovation and, being New World wine markets, less restricted by law (or tradition) to keep doing the same thing year after year. I think where that innovation is going to come from will be driven by the predominant consumer trends in moderation, well-being, connection and expression, which will drive radical changes in wine packaging and wine flavour profiles.
WI: Australia has concluded a raft of free trade agreements in recent years, with the TPP concluded in November 2017. What impact do you think this will have on Australian wine exports?
RS: I think that Australia and New Zealand wine will move forward in leaps and bounds in these markets as they have always over delivered from a quality and value perspective, so as they become more affordable this will only increase their overall appeal and open them up to a potentially whole new audience.
WI: What excites you most about your new role with Wine Intelligence?
RS: The thing that excites me most about the new role at Wine Intelligence is the opportunity to work with so many great organisations and brands and to help the industry as a whole get a better understanding of who their customers are and what excites these consumers about the wine that they enjoy. Like the wine industry itself, the wine consumer is so diverse and trying to find new ways to better understand them is a great journey to be on.
WI: What are your favourite wines or regions of wine?
RS: Of all the questions you have asked me this one is the hardest as I like so many! But the wines I have been enjoying the most during this summer are Vermentinos from Tuscany. My favourite Australian wines, at the moment, are Shirazes from McLaren Vale.
Author: Courtney Abernathy / Rodney Sammut