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Former Waitrose buyer to head up Off-Piste Wines’ sourcing

Former Waitrose and The Co-op buyer Maria Elener has joined Off-Piste Wines to head up its European sourcing and supplying, the company has confirmed.

The UK-based wine supplier and brand owner, which supplies the UK retail market, has appointed Maria Elener, who joined at the end of 2019, as its new sourcing and supplier manager for Europe.

Elener has sixteen years’ experience in the retail sector, having started her wine career at Majestic and as an events coordinator for the Wine Society before joining The Co-op as a buyer in 2003. In 2012 she joined Waitrose where she was a buyer for Italy, Rhône, Eastern Europe, Austria and ‘other’ world wines.

She will work alongside South African-based Paul Meihuizen, who joined the company last year from Bibendum Off-Trade to oversee Off-Piste Wines’ New World sourcing and supply.

Off-Piste’s md Andy Talbot, said the company had seen fantastic growth with a small group of trusted supply partners, but was “looking to take this growth to the next level”, having identified sourcing new suppliers as a key part of its long-term strategy.

“We are actively seeking to fill current supply gaps in our portfolio to enable us to offer our customers a full range of wines from all major wine producing countries. Maria and Paul have a great deal of experience in the sector and are very well-known figures in the industry. We are delighted to have them on the team,” he said.

Speaking to the drinks business in the summer, director Paul Letheren said the company was hoping to double its key supply base to around 20 suppliers in order to cater for expansion, but in a very “targeted” way to ensure that it complements its current range, and ensure the right fit.

It is part of a wider plan to treble its international growth within five years, having secured a £8m investment boost after selling a minority stake in the business to investment firm, The Business Growth Fund (BGF) at the very end of 2019. The US, which accounted for around 7% of total sales in 2018, up from 5% the previous year, was “a big opportunity” it said.

2018 saw the company’s international growth outpacing domestic growth sales, rising 54% in the year to 31 January 2019, compared to 11.5% growth in the domestic market. However the UK still accounts for more than 92% of business and Letheren said there was still a large opportunity for growth in the UK retail market.

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