Wine merchant John Armit has left the Bunch, the trade grouping of top UK merchants, to concentrate on brand-building.
Ian Ronald, CEO of Armit – as the company is now known – told decanter.com they had decided the Bunch had ‘served its purpose’.
‘While it is very nice to spend time with our fellow businesses, the truth is we need to build our own brand rather than a brand called the Bunch.’
The Bunch is a coalition of seven (now six) independent wine merchants: Adnams, Berry Bros, Corney and Barrow, Lay & Wheeler, Tanners and Yapp.
Ronald said brand building is ‘the way forward’. ‘In the face of domination by supermarkets and the continuing success of the independents, the middle ground has been squeezed. The world had moved on and brands are now more important than ever.’
While Armit is adamant it will not be attempting to take on such ‘hugely effective’ operations as Majestic and the Wine Society, Ronald said that for its trade offering it needed to ‘broaden the range’.
‘Margins on top end Bordeaux are looking increasingly skinny,’ he said, and in line with this Armit would be expanding its range for the restaurant trade, with more wines at lower price points.
Three of these wines, at less than £5 before tax, will be the Les Vignals range from the south of France, and Duckbill and Spitting Spider from Australia. They are expected to be taken on as house wines in mid-range restaurants.
Armit will also attempt to build regions which traditionally are more ‘difficult’ to sell.
‘There is a challenge to make people understand how brilliant Italy is,’ he said. Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda range would be the standard-bearer for the Italian offering.
He also stressed that contrary to reports circulating in the industry, Armit was not for sale.
‘We’re moving from being an owner-managed entrepreneur-led business to a team-based operation. We’ve had approaches from interested parties – as do all businesses – but we’re very happy with the direction we are taking.’
Chairman and founder John Armit would continue to be ‘very much involved’ in the company.
For the Bunch’s part, Alun Griffiths of Berry Bros said they would ‘sad to see Armit go’ but he felt there was a lot to gain from the group. Merchants – in many cases ‘newer, smaller sorts of companies ‘ – were still applying to join.
‘That shows there is still a need for a loose confederation of the sort we offer,’ he said.
Written by Adam Lechmere