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GraceKennedy rolls out wine division

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon

Around eight years ago, GraceKennedy quietly re-entered the wine distribution market after a decade-long hiatus, but now the company believes it's time to make more noise about it.

The conglomerate has created a new liquor division called Harbour Wines & Spirits (HW&S), as it makes a bigger play for business. Its portfolio spans 27 wine brands imported from Italy, Portugal, France, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and California and Washington in the United States. They include Trivento, Sparkling Rose, Vino Blanco, Marquis de la Tour Brut and Amado Sur.

HW&S, which falls under GraceKennedy Foods Jamaica, was formally launched on Tuesday night during cocktails on the Kingston waterfront.

CEO of GraceKennedy Foods Jamaica Andrea Coy said the company actually began ramping up distribution of wine and spirits more than five years ago, and is now looking to double the business through the new division, which gives the operation "an identity of its own.

"We have been participating in that category for some time and since 2010, we decided to do it in a meaningful way," Coy said.

The company expects the anticipated growth in the tourism industry to significantly support its reinvestment in the wine market.

The new division allows the brands and business to stand out, Coy said. Its rivals in the business include Caribbean Producers Jamaica, Wray & Nephew and Select Brands.

"We wanted to be very clear that we are in this business and to distinguish it from our core business," she said.

GraceKennedy opted out of the wine distribution market in the 1990s due to a shift in its strategic plan, said GraceKennedy Limited Group CEO Don Wehby.

The conglomerate decided in 2008 to re-enter the market based on "market intelligence that showed a growing interest in wine consumption," he said.

Harbour Wines & Spirits plays on the location of the parent company, which is headquartered on Harbour Street, near the Kingston waterfront.

Coy was mum on the market share the company expects to snag, even while noting there was profit to be made in the burgeoning market.

HW&S is aiming for business from the "new slate of hotels and resort properties", as well as wine enthusiasts, savvy wine shoppers and new wine drinkers.

"As such, our wines range from very economical to very premium and iconic," Wehby said.