The Riverland’s Byrne Vineyards, like most, has had one of the most difficult years in recent times but is intent on ‘crushing it’ in its sixtieth year, and well into the future.
Petria Byrne, third-generation CEO of the vineyard and wine business, says recent floods, red wine oversupply and severe inflationary pressures have been challenging for the family business.
“I can’t recall a time when doing business was so all-consuming,” she said.
“Although our sales projections have materialised, and demand for our products has remained strong, our margins continue to shrink”.
This issue isn’t unique to Byrne Vineyards. According to findings in the The South Australian Business Chamber, William Buck June quarter survey of business expectations released today, both business confidence and conditions have seen a sharp and severe decline. Respondents attribute this concerning trend to the cumulative impact of interest rate hikes, which are finally taking their toll on the economy.
Byrne operates out of an office on Norwood Parade, with their certified sustainable vineyard near the Riverland township of Morgan, 165 kilometres from Adelaide which produces their vegan-friendly wines. The property runs along the Murray River, with Byrne conserving the natural wetlands within its boundaries.
Byrne serves as the master brand for its subsidiaries: Calcannia, Criminal Minds, Flavabom, Glamper, and Sidney Wilcox. These distinct product lines, championed by the family-owned vineyard, enhance brand diversity within a burgeoning market.
Petria says, “With such a diverse range of wines, not all could be accommodated under the Byrne label. This is how our brands developed, ensuring we have a wine suitable for every segment.”
The portfolio of wines demonstrates a market eager for choice in Australia and abroad.
“We have been exporting our produce all over the world for the last 25 years.
“Exports account for 65% of our turnover. We send our wine to around 15 countries, with Germany and Denmark commanding a significant market share.
“We managed to avoid a catastrophic decline in export sales when we lost the China market, which only accounted for 8% of our sales, by maintaining our diverse export strategy.”
The brand diversity Byrne offers is a key point of difference for the business, with some international distributors like South Korea where they have multiple, provide them with the ability to showcase all six of their core brands.
“We cater for everyone — for some, the story of the product matters, for others, it’s all about the aesthetics of the label, and others are seeking wines with a rich history much like what Byrne, our family brand is known for,” she said.
The wine industry is changing. According to a study conducted by drinks market research firm IWSR, global wine consumption deteriorated by 3% in 2022 due to a general decrease in alcohol consumption.
In Australia, wine remains the country’s favoured beverage with around 8.9m consumers nationally but saw a 1.7% decline in the 12 months to June 2022. Beer and spirits saw similar declines, losing ground to a growing market of RTDs (Ready to Drink) promoting options seen to be lower in calories and sometimes lower in alcohol.
For Petria, the changing landscape of wine consumption in Australia and broader alcohol trends looms as a primary concern, highlighting the business’s long-term sustainability will rely on constant evolution to align with shifting consumer needs.
“We know Australians are drinking less, and we don’t see that as bad, so we need to adapt to the times.
“This year in celebration of our sixtieth anniversary, we will launch some fresh branding which is currently undergoing market testing. We are also looking into lower alcohol wines and how they will play a part in Byrnes’ future”.
IWSR, a global leader in alcohol data and analysis, highlights the market value of non and low-alcohol alternatives surpassed $11 billion in 2022, surging from $8 billion in 2018. Notably, millennials aged between 27 and 42 constitute the largest consumer segment for these products.
“We want our business to be as viable in the future as it is today. We now have a fourth-generation Byrne working in the family business, and with this, our legacy of sustainability and regeneration will continue,” Petria concluded.