Great piece in Meininger’s Wine Business International on the USA Trade Tasting event interviewing Sid Patel.

A major new trade fair initiative in the U.S.
Thursday, 16. July 2015 – 12:15

The European wine trade calendar is dominated by events such as ProWein, Vinexpo and Vinitaly, which attract buyers and producers from all over the world, keen to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.

Yet although the US is now the world’s leading market for wine, it has no event of similar importance. Sid Patel, the founder of Beverage Trade Network (BTN) aims to change all that, through launching the USA Trade Tasting (USATT(link is external)), to take place in New York in March 2016. Already the event has attracted the backing of major international groups, from Wine Australia to Wine Industry Insight. Sid Patel explains the initiative to Felicity Carter.

Could you introduce BTN?

BTN is an idea by me and my background is building a wine business. I had my own brand called Friday Monkey out of Australia, I grew that business form zero to thousands of cases in four years. That gave me an idea of how to find a distributor, how to grow the brand from case one and understanding the expectations of the trade. I sold the wine to Canada, Australia and Asia. At its peak it had ten brands, from Argentina, Chile and other countries. It was sort of a private label project.

I started BTN for three reasons. First, how to connect with importers and distributors and grow your brand; second, you always need experienced and great consultants when you want to go from level one to level 10. You need experts to take your brand into chains, airlines, big distribution houses and that is why we are building BTN Consultants listings where producers can see consultants profiles which shows their skills, territory they service and compensation they would like. So I can do a search on BTN and looking for someone who is skilled at finding wine distributors in China, and who can work on commission basis only, for example.  A second example is wine consultants in USA who have experienced to pitch into national chains.

The third reason I started BTN was education. The third need which I saw is that suppliers are lacking in their pitches and support programs. Because of the bottleneck problems, suppliers need to step up and offer a bigger part of the package. That’s why we are building the BTN system called the BTN Academy.

How long has BTN been going?

About five years now. We began in 2011. We’ve grown to 9,000 global members in those four years. We get about 30,000 to 35,000 visitors to our site each month. That’s purely trade, business to business only.

What made you decide to create something like USATT?

The US does not have any international themed events like ProWein or Vinexpo, so the end goal is to build the largest international event in the US market. For anyone looking to enter the US market, this will be the default event.

How does your event differ from other trade fairs?

We have four things that are really different. The ground floor is purely trade trasing. On level 1, we are backing it up with a big educational conference with some solid speakers who will inspire you and talk on ‘how to do it’, rather than covering the trends. Limited to 500 seats, USATT conference is set to deliver the best sales and distribution content.

There is also a meeting area for sit-down meetings that exhibitors can use. Exhibitors can take their prospects and do a sit down meeting in the area. We have also created a section called a brand presentation room where suppliers will be given an opportunity to pitch about their brand for 15 minutes to 30 importers looking to add new products.

Are you certain that you can get those importers along?

Yes. We have by far the biggest database in the US so far and we can leverage through our platform. Our personal goal is to get 200 distributors and importers. We do have a strategy on how we are going to get the buyers.

What else is on offer?

There’s a special program for overseas visitors, which is a two-day webinar workshop, to educate them about the US market before they arrive. When the suppliers come, they will have a basic understanding about the US market and how to talk to distributors and importers. This will take place around January to make sure that the producers are really well prepared.

There will be four different people speaking on four different topics. It’s all for free and everybody gets it. Our idea is to bring well-prepared suppliers, which is what we’re offering to importers.

What’s the biggest mistake you see producers make when they try to enter the US?

Suppliers often get surprised when they see how much margin a state distributor, or a importer or a retailer needs to make for a new brand. They do not realize that US still has the best pricing they can get as federal and state taxes are very minimal compared to many countries. So the first mistake is getting the pricing right, a new brand should give each tier 40% margin at the very least. The second mistake is not following up and working the market; treating the importer as your partner is the key, instead of treating them as a customer. Suppliers need to focus on ’depletions’ instead of ‘Purchase Orders’.

How do you want to develop USATT for the future?

Our long term goal is to go deeper. We want to go deeper in engagement and build it slowly. That’s why we’re capping it at 200 exhibitors in the first year. As trade shows scale, they lose the focus on results and it is more of a branding play. What we are trying to do at USATT is empower producers with knowledge with solid educational conference and potential buyer leads for them to follow up resulting in deals. We will measure our success purely by exhibitor satisfaction, not by the number of visitors who attended.

Why have you chosen New York for your event, when it’s such an expensive city?

To build an international event, it has to be New York. The east coast is where a lot of penetration is. There are a lot of importers and distributors, and we advise people to start on the East Coast because it’s where a lot of imported brands can be successful and instead of directly competing with California and the West Coast industry. We also wanted to make the event convenient for international producers and give them a feel for New York as well.

To exhibit is $2,000.00 and to attend it is free for the trade. A ticket to the education conference is $540.00.