PURE the Winery pivots to direct-to-consumer during COVID-19 with Oracle NetSuite

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood April 1, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
PURE’s move to online sales of its zero sugar wine was aided by Oracle NetSuite and has set the brand up for predicted 2022 sales of 1 million bottles.

Image of PURE the Winery bottles of wine in a hamper

PURE the Winery - a challenger in the global wine market with its lower calorie, zero sugar, yet still alcoholic range of fine wines - says it escaped COVID-19 lockdown disaster by a pivot to online.

The shift was made easier by the use of Oracle’s cloud-based NetSuite ERP. This is because the new business was able to quickly strike a series of online distribution and webstore partnerships, instead of primarily focusing on in-store retail.

After spending a year getting its bottles onto shelves, the company had sold over 400,000 units, but was facing the challenge of setting up a brand from scratch using the traditional brick and mortar model in the midst of a pandemic. Now, three years on, it expects sales of over 1 million bottles of its sugar-free rosé, red, white, and sparkling range in 15 countries. PURE also expects €10 million in revenue by year end - primarily through online. 

In some areas of Europe, sales are now completely direct-to-consumer and online, which accounts for 75% of its business mix.

Another huge benefit of using the NetSuite platform, Financial Controller Stuart Foster says, was being able to quickly internationalize the business in terms of all the different VAT and taxation regulations in countries it unexpectedly needed to start selling in - using the NetSuite OneWorld feature. 

All in all, Foster estimates his Finance team has seen an overall productivity increase of 40%.

‘Then COVID-19 hit’

As already mentioned, operating as a digital company was not the original plan. PURE’s founders had previously worked for Coca-Cola’s bottling operation, so had extensive knowledge of launching international brands via physical distribution networks and retail chains. 

The brand fully expected to use those channels to sell the wine directly into supermarkets, restaurants, hotel chains and distributors in the right markets to scale the business. 

The company had already purchased an ERP system, knowing it would need to monitor production inventory, and link up with retailer systems and distributed systems, so that orders could be placed online. 

It had also hoped for international sales early on, which is why the chosen platform’s international features (allied to the fact that the team is highly virtual) were appealing. Foster says: 

From my point of view, one system that could manage the stock and the accounting was precisely what we were looking for.

But those features turned out to be needed sooner than anticipated. He adds:

We were in a supermarket chain in Germany and in Australia following the original plan. But then COVID-19 hit and all new business development options, like going in to meet with buyers, getting our product under the noses of buyers, and in front of the right people in supermarkets…just disappeared. 

And as everyone knows, the restaurants, the bars, the hotels, lost all their business; they weren't buying either.

Sales started to disappear, which is obviously highly stressful for a new company. And as imminent launches in regions such as the Netherlands and Belgium seemed doomed, PURE ‘put its toe in the water’, and opened an online store to sell directly to the public instead:

It was a success; it worked well and grew quickly. We then copied the model into Germany and into Spain, and from there we've copied the model into Belgium and Austria in Europe. We also have an online store for our subsidiary in Australia, a partner in Singapore selling the wine online, and we just kept going.

Easy sharing of web store tech 

Key to the success of this model is the ability to share web store technology and processes developed by the brand with partners - as it is doing with Thirstie, its main US outlet. 

Another benefit for PURE the Winery, is the support for close monitoring of production. To achieve zero sugar, the firm works with Italian vineyards who pick grapes early in the season to prevent as much sugar build-up as possible. Its partner winemakers then introduce a type of yeast that quickly converts what sugar there is into alcohol. Foster explains: 

We get every batch tested to confirm that the sugar is at such a small minute level that it can be branded as sugar free. There's still 10.5% alcohol in every bottle, it's not alcohol-free, just sugar-free. It’s all produced naturally, but because of the way we produce our wine, we always need to know where it is. 

This system allows us to follow the production process fully and gives us a good handle on the stock that we've got at various stages of production.

Finally, Foster and the team like how easy it is to tweak the software to meet PURE’s specific business requirements. These are not add-ons that had to be bought, but are still within the functionality level the company subscribes to, which again has helped aid its rapid expansion, he said. 

Next steps for cloud ERP at PURE include integrating the web stores more thoroughly with the platform. It is hoped that this will improve reporting and accounting, but also allow for better analysis of customer activity.

In parallel, expansion continues, albeit under the same supply chain constraints many other consumer goods companies are facing. Foster says:

We'd hoped to have opened a web store in France by now, but we're waiting for supplies to bottle the wine and then get it there. After that, opening similar web stores in Italy and Ireland is on the agenda for hopefully later this year.

Summing up his company’s overall experience with cloud ERP, Foster concludes:

We've not come across any situation as we've been expanding that can't be handled by this, and its scalability and internationalization have definitely proved to be valuable for us.

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