Champ invests more in Accolade Wines

Champ Private Equity is continuing to invest in Accolade Wines by installing an extra bottling line at its UK packing facility and re-branding Kumala.

Accolade Park

Champ is to finance the installation of a third bottling line at Accolade Park, taking the facility’s filling capacity to over 25m cases annually

Speaking to the drinks business in London this morning, Paul Schaafsma, general manager for Accolade Wines in the UK said Champ “was committed to making a good company great” by investing in the wine producer.

Schaafsma said he was repeating the words of Champ managing director John Haddock, who first uttered the phrase at a dinner in London on 3 September to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Hardys wine brand, Accolade’s flagship label.

As previously reported by db, Haddock announced a £10 million investment in the Hardys brand worldwide at the same event, while Schaafsma told db this morning that £2.6m had already been spent advertising the Australian wine on 4,500 billboards around the UK, as well as within 18 different consumer publications.

Schaafsma also said that Hardys was up 14% year on year by value and 12% by volume following the campaign, and had increased its average retail selling price in the UK from £4.80 to £5.30.

As further evidence of Champ’s commitment to build the Accolade Wines business, Schaafsma announced that the company’s UK bottling plant is to gain a third filling line.

“Champ has just signed off a third line at Accolade Park, which will by up and running by September next year,” he said.

The bottling plant, which was begun in October 2007 by the mouth of the River Severn on the outskirts of Bristol, became operational from January 2009, and currently fills the equivalent of 21m nine-litre cases of wine each year.

The extra line will cost around £11 million to install, but Schaafsma said it would allow Accolade to fill a further 5 million cases annually, as well as allow the company to produce every bottle format from 187ml to magnums.

Furthermore, following Champ’s investment in Hardys, Schaafsma said the private equity business would finance the rebranding of Kumala, the UK’s best-selling South African label.

Consumers can expect to see a new look Kumala from February or March next year, with higher quality paper stock and other changes to make the brand appear more upmarket, according to Schaafsma.

Aside from Champ’s investment in raising awareness of Accolade’s existing brands, the private equity business has also financed two strategic acquisitions: Geyser Peak in California and Mud House in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, yesterday the company announced the appointment of a new CEO for Accolade Wines.

John Ratcliffe will take up the post after two years offering wine industry advice to Accolade through his business Wine Consult.

As a consequence of this existing relationship, Schaafsma stressed that Ratcliffe “already has a good relationship with the key management” at both Accolade and parent company Champ.

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