Are you leaving money on the table by not providing a seat for others? Vinexpo explores new diversity initiatives and how they can impact your business.
By Erin Ortiz
On May 25, 2020, the world was quiet enough to hear the screams of racial injustice through the tragic death of George Floyd. Protesters took to the streets, and the wine industry sought black-owned businesses to support. Just weeks later, Jeff Jenssen and Mike DeSimone would pose a long overdue challenge to wine industry professionals in a Forbes article, Does The Wine Industry Have A Racism Problem?
Since then, there has been a developing change of guard. This new awareness of social injustice catalyzed the diversity movement in the last three years. The 2023 Vinexpo discussions and exhibitions centered on making the most of this movement.
One of the exciting trends foreshadowed at Vinexpo was the strong representation of South Africa. This is an important step in exploring an untapped market. Effective marketing includes seeing one’s self in the product. It’s exciting to think of the new winemaking techniques, varietals, and wine and spirits rockstars soon to be discovered by including the talented and formidable women winemakers of South Africa.
The industry has included more opportunities and perspectives in the past three years. This year, Vinexpo provided us with input from food and beverage industry experts on how we can capitalize on the billions of dollars the industry is leaving on the table by ignoring marginalized communities.
Sommelier Yannick Benjamin, co-founder of “Wine on Wheels,” Contento and Beaupierre Wine & Spirits, thinks, “in my case, for example, yes, I’m a person that uses a wheelchair because of my spinal cord, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I know what it’s like to be blind, to be deaf or to have an intellectual disability.” His natural curiosity drives him to develop innovative hospitality solutions, a place for all to enjoy.
His latest suggestion includes putting QR codes on the back of all wine labels, at minimum, to assist the vision impaired. He sees a big business opportunity in helping those with disabilities find your wine. “If you can’t get emotionally incentivized, then you should get financially incentivized because there are 61 million Americans who have a disability, who have over 500 billion dollars of spending power,” he said.
Diversity and inclusion efforts in wine are still an early whisper. But an exciting solution is provided in diversity and inclusion efforts to build back a stronger industry than pre-Covid. The Vinexpo panelists did an excellent job of showing us how to expand our table and include more seats.