Founder and CEO at Vioneers and Former Executive at Lidl
Jochen has over 20 years experience working in retail and over 5 years in importing, distributing and selling wine throughout Europe. He is the Founder and CEO of Vioneers, a German wine online DTC start up that sources wine directly from local winemakers to sell throughout Germany and Europe. He is also the CEO of Grapeagents, a European-based wine importer and distributor of premium wines focused on small family-owned producers. Jochen previously spent 5 years as the CFO of Dublin Food Sales, one of the largest food service companies in Ireland, and started his retail career with 10 years working at Lidl in various roles across Europe. Read more
Can you tell us about your background and experience in the wine industry?
I have an extensive background in retail having worked for a large European retailer for over 10 years, and still maintain a retail DNA. I became self-employed in 2014 when I bought into a food service business. In 2017 I started a wine company called Vioneers. Since then I have seen the production side of wine and worked with wine makers and producers globally. In my previous role I was focused on end consumers and restaurants.
Can you give us a short introduction to your new wine venture?
I started Vioneers because I saw wine as a lifestyle and luxury product. I saw many other brands and products with honest marketing focusing on the experience and who was behind a product. In wine there are many B2C and online offers which are deal-focused with a short-term eye on business. I wanted to change this and give great producers a stage for their powerful stories. I wanted to digitize the experience consumers have when visiting a winery or restaurant with a knowledgeable sommelier.
That is the foundation for Vioneers where we focus on family-owned wineries, producing superior quality and communicate that honestly.
How has wine as a consumer product evolved?
If you go back more than hundreds of years ago to the roots of wine making, it was part of the culture where people developed regional styles of wine. It was often connected to enjoying good food and festivals and linked to all the core values of residents of a particular region.
In today's commercial world, wine has become a commodity. Looking at e-commerce statistics, wine is always mixed in a box with grocery shopping, and supermarkets are the biggest channel where wine is sold to end consumers. The price and shiny label are the main decision-making criteria for customers which is a far cry from the original product. I see many trends becoming more important in other industries, such as who is behind the product and what makes it?
Take the meat industry as an example. Consumers are more aware of production techniques and animal welfare, and I believe that same sensitivity is coming to the wine business. There will be a greater distinction between quality versus mass-produced wine.
Why is wine so price driven today?
Wine is opaque and consumers fear overpaying for it, either because they are uneducated or fooled. They prefer a safe bet and if they choose a bargain which they end up disliking, at least they did not overpay. That is a big driver for buying decisions, especially in Germany where consumers are more price sensitive. What people spend on food is very much price driven and wine has to fit into that.