What do business partners get from their work with Sea-Changers?
In the first of a series of posts for our website we wanted to hear from our business partners to understand how and why they wanted to build a charity partnership and what they get from the relationship with Sea-Changers. Co-Founder of Sea-Changers Helen Webb spoke to Simon Rolfe, Director at 10 International, the wine company behind Sea Change wine, which raises money for marine conservation charities, including Sea-Changers. They chatted about how Seachange Wine began how it supports marine conservation and what next for this exciting brand.
HELEN: So maybe you could start by telling me a little bit about Sea Change Wine, and the story behind it … how it came about?
SIMON: Sea Change came about a couple of years ago. We were at a very big annual wine conference over in Germany and we were out at a dinner with some customers of ours from the west coast of Canada. We were chatting, over a glass of wine, about what could be the next project that we might work on that they'd be interested in. And that year, we'd had a little bit of success with another one of our wines, which was called Pink Elephant, that raised money and supported the Asian elephant population.
The conversation progressed onto the environment – something we were all interested in - and the Canadian customers mentioned that they were seeing a lot of press coverage back home in British Columbia regarding ocean clean-up, and the impact of plastic pollution on marine eco-systems. That's where we started thinking…. and that evening, the idea was born.
HELEN: So, once you'd had that initial idea. Where did you go next?
SIMON: We went out to speak to plenty of people. We discussed the concept with the team, family members, friends. We were pretty sold on the idea once we delved in a little bit deeper and we felt it was going to work. The deeper understanding came when we started trying to identify the different charities we might raise money for. I met with your Co-Founder, Rachel. I met with Jo Ruxton from Plastic Oceans UK; those conversations were the real eye opener for me. When we spoke to people that operate in the conservation sector we suddenly realised that, you know, this is even more important than we realised, to be honest. The more I learned about marine conservation issues, the more important it became.
HELEN: So Sea Change wine is a small way that anyone can help address the problems facing the oceans?
SIMON: That’s the idea. Changes don't have to be huge fundamental changes to your daily life. They can be relatively modest, but they can have a significant impact if enough people do them. So, I think it's about taking a practical look at the way we all live, making the changes that we can easily make ….and Sea Change wine is a little part of that.
HELEN: How did you decide which charities to work with?
SIMON: We're headquartered here in the UK. Whilst we do sell internationally, the majority of our work is here. So as a starting point, we wanted to work with some UK based charities. We looked up Plastic Oceans UK and they were the first potential charity partner that I met. We also wanted to make sure that we were supporting a charity here in the UK, that (as well as raising awareness, as Plastic Oceans do) is directly protecting the UK’s beautiful coastline and that led us also to find Sea-Changers. Sea-Changers was exactly what we were looking for in that you were very much focused on practical solutions.
After that, some of our international customers were saying they loved the concept, loved the idea, loved the wine, loved the fact that it is supporting charities … but asked if it could support a charity within their local region. So, the next charity we looked at working with was the Olive Ridley Project. They work in the Indian Ocean, and in particular, look to rescue the Olive Ridley turtles that become entangled in nets.
The whole thing has developed from there. We've now got about eight different charities covering territories right around the globe.
Since day one, we have wanted to be able to say thank you to our customers and to say “your support and your buying choices have helped do x” - whether it's this beach clean on the east coast of Scotland, or opening a new veterinary centre for turtles on this particular Indian Ocean island.
HELEN: So, how has the fundraising been going then?
SIMON: We've donated over €50,000 already and in reality, the wine has only been properly live for about 12 to 18 months so really we are at the start. Had the COVID-19 situation not occurred, you know, we were on track for a lot more to come. But the truth is, it's a delay rather than a stop.
HELEN: Yes, so what impact has that had?
SIMON: We usually sell mostly to wholesalers and trade (restaurants, bars and pubs) so the impact has been massive. But, we haven’t stood still. The whole situation has led us to launching the e-commerce website, and SeaChangewine.com allowing us to reach a much bigger part of the UK market more directly. This could potentially find and create customers of Sea Change Wine that might not have come across it before. They would have had to have seen it in a particular restaurant or bar or hotel. Whereas now, if
people believe in the brand and like the wines they're going to be able to buy it direct. The wine itself has been very well received by everybody that have bought it. People love the packaging.
They love the concept behind it. They really enjoy the wine so it's fantastic.
HELEN: Tell me a bit more about the environmental credentials of the wine. How difficult was it to create those aspects of the brand?
SIMON: Certain aspects were quite difficult but others were fairly easy. We are lucky in that we already dealt with a fairly large number of great wine suppliers around the world. So, we had existing contacts - opening discussions was fairly straightforward. We were conscious early on, that if we were going to make Sea Change a success, it had to be the complete package. So, there was no point in talking a good game in terms of the charitable donations, and then actually not following through in terms of the brand living up to the ideals that it was talking about.
So, we looked at every aspect the wine package and the production process. We set out to be is the best we possibly can be. The first thing we thought about was the capsule which you will see is removed on all Sea Change wines. We saw that as a superfluous bit of packaging. It is usually made from a plastic derivative. Even this had its challenges- in some markets it is a law that you do need a secondary cover. So, we had to try and get round that with paper, as a tamper proof seal.
We've gone for lighter weight bottles too. This is something that is fairly straight-forward. The challenge there was trying to get consistency across different producers. So, they may all have lighter weight bottles, but are the same lightweight bottles available in Italy as in France, for example? So there have been some challenges there from a brand consistency perspective. The benefits of the lightweight bottle are less energy used in the production, less energy when transporting. So, you need less shipments to get the wine to where it needs to be. We've also looked at the labelling. We use a type of paper called grape touch, which is created using some reconstituted grape - it's quite nice that it ties back into the wine production process. The rest of the material used to make that label is from renewably forested supplies. The final aspect is the cork. This is the one where we probably spent the most time investigating, simply because it is quite a complex area. Almost every single closure option has its challenges, environmentally, but we are constantly working on that and we'll try to make sure that if any new technology comes along, we will jump on it!
HELEN: What’s next for Sea Change Wine?
SIMON: Firstly, we will continue to try to reach out to more potential consumers in the UK – there’s still plenty to do to get the word out!
Secondly, there are likely to be some additions to the range. We've just launched the Provence Rosé which is the first premium Sea Change Wine. Over the short to medium term it would be to launch fully organic wines. We might look to launch a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Grigio rosé as a direct result of UK consumer demand. We may want to add some more premium wines to go with the Provence Rosé…. There are lots of possibilities. If anybody's got any ideas in terms of what they would like, let us know!
HELEN: Thank you Simon … maybe we should both go and have a glass of wine now – Sea Change of course!