Growing up in the Barossa Valley and then working in the wine industry, you could say that it was inevitable that Dylan Fairweather, and his brother Justin, would work in the wine industry – but not quite in the traditional way.
“Alpha Box & Dice (AB&D) started off as an experimental wine house,” says Dylan, AB&D’s Managing Director, “with the aim of producing alternative varietals that really pushed the boundaries of winemaking.”
“We have longstanding agreements with our growers, who work with our winemaker in the vineyards all year round. This has allowed us to make lesser known varietals more popular in Australia, and now internationally.”
While Dylan and Justin have worked in the wine industry in various capacities, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to assume ownership of AB&D when it presented itself in 2013.
“It’s definitely a passion project of ours,” says Dylan. “While the aim of the business is obviously to grow and be financially stable, our real goal is getting the stories behind the wines out to the rest of the world.”
“Plus being able to market and sell something that we love, and are really passionate about, is just brilliant,” adds Dylan.
Our exporting journey
AB&D has done a small amount of exporting over the last five years or so, but it’s been in the last 18 months that things have really moved quickly, since Justin Fairweather joined the company full time as Export Director.
“We probably felt that five years ago, the overseas market wasn’t quite ready for our business, which is why we focused so heavily on getting our domestic operations right,” says Dylan.
“However, we’ve now built enough supply to start exporting properly, and it’s certainly taken off, with the UK, Canada and the Nordic regions all being very strong for us.”
“We’ve found the key is establishing partnerships with the right people and finding those people around the world that are really passionate about what we do.”
And like many small and medium exporters, especially those in the wine industry, managing their cashflow is a constant challenge.
“Having sold wine overseas previously, including to some government departments, we knew how significant the lag time is between shipping our product and actually getting paid,” says Dylan.
“This was where Efic, through its Small Business Export Loan, has been very helpful to us, as it’s allowed us to fulfil a number of new overseas orders.”
Strong overseas demand
The funds that we approved were used by AB&D to help cover the packaging, labelling and delivery costs associated with a couple of new purchase orders.
“We received an order from a leading food and beverage importer in Sweden,” says Dylan, “and we expect further orders to come through from them, as we have two products listed with the government-owned liquor stores.”
“The second order was from a national liquor importer in Canada, which is the second one from them this financial year.”
“Efic’s Small Business Export Loan allowed us to keep fulfilling orders for wine that we’ve produced, ensuring we enhance our reputation through keeping up with the interest we’re receiving from overseas.”
“We’ve just returned from ProWein, the largest wine fair in the world, where we received orders from multiple new international markets,” adds Dylan.
“Our UK importer even told us they’d sold out of our product before the order had even arrived in the country.”
Onwards and upwards
AB&D continues to work closely with Wine Australia to find overseas markets that best fits its products.
“Our target market is independent retailers and restaurants,” says Dylan. “We’re not looking to hit every supermarket chain that we can find.”
“The key for us now is to maintain our quality, seek out those niche markets made up of people that really appreciate what we do and then go from there.
“Justin, our Export Director is on the road over 330 days a year, so we’re now spreading the word across lots of different overseas markets.
“And even though we’ve seen significant growth in international markets in just 18 months, we haven’t changed what we do that much,” finishes Dylan.
“A lot of experts will suggest you adapt your products to suit the market you’re entering. We have the opposite approach, where we find the customers that exist within a new market that fit our existing products and philosophies.”
“And with sales already increased from this time last year, it’s clear the significant impact that exporting has had on our little wine business.”