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TWE’s Ben Dollard: An Inside Look at Driving Innovation from an Industry Leader

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TWE’s Ben Dollard brings perspective to the shift in consumer behavior.

 

Ben Dollard

Ben Dollard grew up in Adelaide, Australia. His family was in the hospitality industry and, he says, “Growing up surrounded by amazing wine growing regions, I always had an interest in learning more about wine.” He studied Wine Business at the University of Adelaide and knew from an early stage that “the wine community worldwide [is] exciting.”

He continues, “I love that wine is central to many important milestones in history and life. It is a beverage that is centered around occasions and is all about experiences. Wine is a great connector for conversation and pleasure.” 

Dollard joined Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) in January 2020 with more than 20 years’ experience in the alcohol beverage industry in the Americas region, having worked in various senior executive leadership roles with Constellation Brands in the United States and Canada. As president of the Americas division, he has reshaped the Treasury Americas business by focusing on consumers, innovation and unlocking the potential of the premium and luxury business. 

At this year’s Wine Sales Symposium, Dollard will deliver a keynote address, “Consumer Obsession,” which will “explore the theme of reaching consumers where they are through innovative means.” In advance of that appearance, he took a few moments to share his perspective on where the industry is headed — and how we can leverage that information.

 

Q: How have current market conditions impacted the way TWE is marketing its brands? 

Consumers are constantly evolving, and [TWE] adopts a similar approach to engage directly with consumers and ensure we are meeting their needs. 

Q: How important is it to have key staff, winemakers as an example, in the market? 

Experiences and storytelling are a huge part of what we do. Any opportunity to share our history with consumers and trade, we will welcome. 

Q: What advice do you have for brand marketers looking to better connect with younger consumers? 

Respect for our consumers and the need to be authentic and true to our purpose is essential. This includes how we value the role we play as custodians of the environment and wineries. Telling those stories is really important. 

Q: Despite all of the bad news about declining consumption, there are brands that are growing. What commonalities do you see with those brands vs. ones that are struggling? 

Clearly, brands that are offering an experience that is unique, engaging and accessible play an important role for consumers, both new and existing.

Q: What shifts have you seen in the industry regarding wine consumers and the decrease in sales? 

Over the last few years, consumption trends have evolved. The wine category remains large and very relevant. Innovation plays an important role, and we know consumers are excited to try new things.  

 

Looking forward

Q: What do you see as the cornerstone of innovation within the industry right now? Moving forward? 

This question can be answered in a few different ways. There is ongoing innovation happening to drive sustainability in the vineyards and wineries. There is innovation happening in packaging (e.g., glass weights, sizes, etc.) related to sustainability and changes in consumer occasions. There is innovation in the shift towards more immersive experiences in tasting rooms as consumers search for experiences beyond the trial of wine. There is innovation in the traditional wine club channel, adding partnerships and experiences that focus more on loyalty and access than free tastings and discounted shipments. 

From a digital perspective, innovation is adopting new technology to help bring us closer to our customers and provide them with a better, more personalized experience that shows how a great glass, or bottle of wine, can play a part in their story. The AI revolution is reshaping marketing and our ability to tell stories, provide value, and create unique online experiences. At the same time, continued advancements in technology are bringing the digital and physical worlds closer together. 

We were the first to bring AR to wine bottles, the technology and accessibility of AR and VR is just getting better. They create more interactive and personalized shopping experiences, driving higher engagement and sales. All of this supports our effort to take a pillar of the wine industry and enable it in a digital way. We build relationships with the visitors to our tasting rooms in personalized and impactful ways, with new technology we can bring that authentic and ongoing engagement to people who may never pass through our doors. 

Q: Where do you see growth / or what aspect should the industry focus on to grow? 

We continue to engage with our loyal consumers and provide new experiences for them to welcome them into the wine category for the first time.

Q: What potential do you see in the premium and luxury segment? How is TWE positioning itself to take advantage of this? 

We see great potential for welcoming new consumers into the wine category within the premium segment. The acquisition of DAOU cements our commitment to the luxury space. We see a great opportunity to engage with the luxury consumer as this segment continues to evolve. 

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The Wine Sales Symposium takes place May 16, 2024, in Santa Rosa, Calif. To learn more, go to winesalessymposium.com.

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