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Melbourne businessman creates retail platform for local wine producers to cut out the middle men

Monday, 2 June 2014 | By Eloise Keating

Local wine, cheese and olive producers are the first to start using a direct-to-public online store designed by Melbourne technology entrepreneur John Cameron.


From the Producer launched today after months of testing. The site has the backing of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association and Australian Olive Association.


In a bid to support smaller food manufacturers, From the Producer allows businesses to list their produce for free in the online store, with all sales revenue minus transactions costs returning to the company who makes the products.


The only criterion for local sellers is that they are a member of their relevant industry association.


A spokesperson for the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia told SmartCompany around 60 winemakers have signed up, with close to 570 different wines currently available to shoppers.


The spokesperson said there are plans to add further product categories, with the vision behind the site to create a “shopping basket where consumers can support local producers”.


From the Producer is the brainchild of Cameron, who is the principal of IT firm Cameron Edge and one of the architects of the automated trading systems used for the Australian Stock Exchange. The site is owned by the Cameron Foundation, which aims to use technology to support social causes.


Cameron said in a statement he developed the platform because “a thriving community of local producers drives diversity, innovation and quality”.


“I want to see Australians supporting this and getting to enjoy fabulous products at the same time,” he said.


Cameron said the site is “managed by the producers themselves, which means that it costs almost nothing to run”.


“I have put it in the cloud where it can run forever as a free service allowing local producers and consumers to connect and do business,” he said.


“Industry associations, such as the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, check that producers listed on the site are association members in good standing. This check gives the consumer confidence that listed producers are reputable and reliable sellers.”


In the same statement, Winemakers’ Federation of Australia president Tony D’Aloisio described From the Producer as “an important addition to the retail landscape”.


“It especially has a role to play in assisting smaller wineries and young winemakers that might not have ready access to a retail distribution network, shelf space or a cellar door of their own,” he said.


Ian Firth, customer services manager at Fowles Wine in Victoria’s Strathbogie ranges told SmartCompany his winery got on board with the project early on for a number of reasons.


“As a wine retailer you are always looking to ways to get your wines in front of consumers and direct marketing is incredibly powerful,” says Firth.


“The endorsement of the platform by the Winemakers’ Federation also gave it the edge of authenticity we felt a direct-to-consumer site needed,” he says.


“We also really like the electronic ‘farmers’ market’ aspect of this site,” says Firth. “It’s trying to support producers to reach as many consumers as possible. And with no commissions taken off the prices, you can tell it is aimed at helping producers.”


Firth says using the platform is straightforward. “John Cameron has created a user-friendly website that is pretty intuitive to use and set up products on,” says Firth.


The orders are emailed directly to the producers, who then pack and dispatch the goods themselves. “We handle all the invoicing and dispatches, and we collect details from the consumer for our databases, which hopefully means we will be about to develop a relationship with them,” says Firth.


While the relationship between local producers and the supermarket giants has become increasingly fraught, Firth says From the Producer is not designed to combat the growing market share of the big retailers.


“Retailers play an important role and they have been really supportive of our products,” says Firth. “This is just another avenue or channel to get our wines to consumers.”


Richard Angove from Angove Family Winemakers in South Australia told SmartCompany his winery also sees From the Producer as a new distribution channel that will complement the businesses' existing sales networks.


"For a small winery, distribution is a tough business," says Angove, who says it is particularly difficult to distribute products across dispersed geographical locations. "This website is a way of doing that."


Angove says small wineries will often only produce small quantities of particular wines, which can be hard to distribute through traditional retail channels. But From the Producer makes it more viable to sell these small quantities.


"The wine industry is a collaborative industry in general and this is a great collaborative project," says Angove. "And there are zero costs for the producers involved."


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.