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Different Drop doubles estimates on boutique wine sales

Different Drop co-founders Brett Ketelbey and Tom Hollings took a leap of faith into the unknown in 2013 to build their own online retail solution for wine lovers and small winemakers.

“In the early days it was a lot of cold-calling and knocking on (cellar) doors, Different Drop was a new name and it was a slow start! Over the years though we’ve helped hundreds of smaller producers grow their businesses, and with this reputation and big network these days it’s mostly smaller producers coming to us. We taste everything before we buy (one of the tougher jobs!) and only add the best and most interesting wines to the website,” Hollings told Inside FMCG.

And now that the Coronavirus outbreak has boosted business, Different Drop has hired wine reps and restaurant staff who have lost their jobs, to assist with the increased sales volumes. Hollings and Ketelbey shared an insight into the business journey with Inside FMCG.

Inside FMCG: Is it difficult to source the best artisan wines?

Tom Hollings: Yes, it can be! We sell many of the rarest wines in the country from cult producers like Sorrenberg, Ruggabellus, Ochota Barrels and Luke Lambert, and we’ve put a lot of work into these relationships over the years to make sure that they trust us to represent their brands the way they want to be. These wines come and go in a flash so we try and move fast! Then it’s just about keeping our ear to the ground and using our wide network in the industry to discover the next big thing before anyone else does!

Inside FMCG: What is the price range for these wines?

Brett Ketelbey: Our wines vary in price from around the A$20 mark right up to A$500+. Our sweet spot though is in the A$25 – A$50 range. It’s hard to find truly hand-crafted wines for under A$25, but around this range there are just so many exciting and delicious wines, and this is where we believe Australia offers better value than anywhere else on the planet. Then we have our mixed packs, subscription service and other member special offers where we offer some great savings too.

Inside FMCG: What’s the top selling wine at Different Drop?

TH: In terms of grape variety, Pinot Noir these days would be our biggest seller, followed closely by Shiraz. In the whites it’s Chardonnay, Riesling and then daylight! Emerging styles like orange/amber skin contact wines, pet nats (naturally made sparkling wines) and of course rose are more and more popular each year too. We’re humbled to work with hundreds of Australia’s finest producers, but some of our best performers are modern legends like Luke Lambert, Ravensworth, Ochota Barrels & Yangarra, iconic producers like Mount Mary, By Farr, Clonakilla & Cullen, and rising stars like Bondar, Unico Zelo, Two Tonne Tasmania & Vignerons Schmolzer & Brown.  Too many to narrow it down!

Inside FMCG: Did the coronavirus outbreak increase sales?

BH: Yes, that’s definitely been our experience. We’re running at roughly double our projections, which has definitely put some pressure on our warehouse and deliveries!  It has been mixed feelings for us because many of our friends in the industry – [restaurateurs], wholesalers & producers – are doing it really tough right now. But it is great to see the sales flying in and we’re happy we can help these small producers keep the lights on and help keep the wine flowing for everyone stuck at home.

Inside FMCG: How did the pandemic impact the types of wines consumers buy online?

BH: We have a very adventurous customer base so we’re still seeing people exploring and trying an eclectic mix of wines and styles, maybe even more so than usual. Overall the average bottle price has probably come down a little as people watch their pennies, but some of our most expensive wines are still selling well – we’ve had many customers tell us they’re choosing to open the good stuff and help forget about what’s going on. I think our other observation has been that our pre-made mixed packs have been more popular than ever. We have dozens of them available on the site, and packs like our ‘Awesome Autumn Reds Pack’ and ‘The Experimental Pack’ have been flying out the door!

Inside FMCG: Tell us about the decision to bring former restaurant staff onboard at Different Drop.

TH: It’s been pretty awful to see many of our friends in the industry stood down and doing it tough. Business is good for us and we’ve been needing plenty of spare hands in our warehouse, with copy writing and in delivering all the extra orders, so it made sense to try and help our mates.  Hopefully things return to normal asap and these guys can get back to work selling and pouring wines, but in the meantime we’re happy to have the help!

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