Leading UK wine distributor, Bibendum, was in Belfast recently to unveil a new and exclusive range of premium product to local customers.
Respected wine distributor, Bibendum was in Belfast in April for a showcase event at the Bullitt hotel. This was the well-regarded brand’s first public outing north of the border since the C&C Group, supported by brewing giant, AB InBev, swooped in April last year to acquire Bibendum from its flailing parent, Conviviality plc.
Earlier this year, the re-invigorated distributor announced a new partnership with Irish wine merchant, Gilbeys, introducing the best of Bibendum’s premium and artisanal labels to Gilbeys well-established Irish portfolio.
At the same time, the Bibendum brand launched in Northern Ireland with a new and exclusive range of wines – many of which were available for sampling at the Belfast event.
Also present – and enjoying his first ever trip to Northern Ireland – was Bibendum’s Shropshire-born chief executive, Michael Saunders. He founded Bibendum in 1982 along with a group of wine-loving friends, but had left the drinks trade following the sale of the company to Conviviality in 2016.
Then, in May last year, he was reunited with his much-loved offspring, returning to head-up the brand’s recovery. At the end of the year, he felt confident enough to declare to the hospitality press that the company had got its ‘mojo’ back:
‘We are getting back to being a respected business with a bit of bounce in our step,’ he said.
Speaking to LCN during his recent trip to Belfast, Michael revealed that his return to Bibendum had been like ‘getting back the keys to my baby’:
‘When you spend all your time doing something right from school, then it’s very emotional, but I knew right from the start that I would have to sell it [Bibendum] at some point. When I got the call to come back, that was great, although there was still a lot to sort out and in the 10 months since coming back, we’ve been busy getting the ship sailing again.’
The Belfast date came at the end of a busy round of similar events in Galway, Cork and Dublin, during which the trade were able to see and taste a variety of Bibendum wines from around the world, many of them not easily sourced in Ireland.
‘Up here in the north, with Andrew [Schnell] and his team, we can bring quite a lot of expertise to bear, and on show here today is a portion of the offering that we have for customers in Northern Ireland,’ said Michael, whose brand won the Wine Merchant of the Year accolade at the Sommelier Wine Awards in 2017 and 2018.
‘We have one of the best ranges on the planet and I know that many companies will say the same, but when I worked with Conviviality, I was able to make great contacts with distributors all over the world who already knew about our range and our approach…our market knowledge is second-to-none and we know better than anyone what is going on in the drinks trade.’
Bibendum uses that market savvy to help its customers leverage strong value from its portfolio, offering a range of additional services, including staff training – Bibendum’s online training app has been downloaded around 24,000 times. It’s part of an added-value approach that sees Bibendum’s insight, design and training teams working alongside their customers.
‘In Belfast today, we’re hoping to meet lots of customers who are interested in the products that we have,’ said Michael. ‘Bibendum’s reputation has a lot of impact and we hope that people are going to be curious about some of the wine that we’re offering here today.’
And he added:
‘I’m a great believer in walking before you can run, this isn’t a sprint. We are showcasing elements of our range today and we’ll bring more of it into play as time goes on. I want the whole team here to be really motivated by our range and to be happy working with it and if we build a good reputation this year, if we have good product and good people here, that’s going to be a great start.’
Our picture above shows a group of those at the Bullitt hotel in Belfast. They are Andrew Schnell; Rory Conniffe, restaurant manager at Deane’s; Didier Nyeceront, also Deane’s and and Michael Saunders, Bibendum managing director.