The Waikato Chamber of Commerce sat down with the 2023 Supreme Winner from the recent Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group, to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. Invivo Wines won the International Trade Award sponsored by Skypoint Technologies, as well as the Foster Construction Group Supreme Award.
Invivo first began as an idea thrown around by two friends in a London bar in 2008. Fast forward 15 years and the Waikato-based company has wines and spirits in 43 countries and has been awarded more than 600 medals and trophies. And their latest win is that of Supreme Winner in the 2023 Waikato Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group. They also took out the international trade category.
Founded by Kiwi school friends Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, Invivo is behind the award-winning collaborations with Graham Norton and Sarah Jessica Parker, who are both shareholders/ directors in Invivo NZ and Invivo US respectively.
Tim said being a Waikato-based winery and business that exports from Te Kauwhata, it was a privilege for Invivo to enter the Waikato Business Awards so they could shine a light on the Waikato, “whether that’s within the countries we’re exporting to, or with our long-term collaboration partners Graham Norton and Sarah Jessica Parker, both of whom are excited to visit one day”.
Tim and Rob set out to make great wine without the elitist attitude the industry can be known for. And the formula has been a success. There’s the haul of international wine show accolades, distribution around the world, and two successful crowdfunding campaigns under their belt. In fact, the latter made Invivo the largest crowdfunded beverage company in the Southern Hemisphere.
Today, Invivo operates from two wineries in Te Kauwhata. Its historic main operating winery was built back in 1902 by the New Zealand government as a research centre, to discover if New Zealand could make wine.
“Its rich history in the Waikato is incredibly important to us, as is our local community who support us here and enjoy drinking our wine. We’re thrilled with both awards, and it means a huge amount to our team who are all based in the Waikato,” Tim said.
Of the entry and judging process, Tim said they’re often focused on the day-to-day running of the business so taking time to pause and reflect on their achievements was important.
“We had a great time showing the judges round our historic winery and the improvements we’ve made since taking it over in 2015, plus all of our trading achievements since then. When Invivo took over the winery, it had the capacity to produce 300,000 litres of wine. We now produce 3 million litres of wine from here, 80% of which goes to export markets, so it’s pretty mind-blowing to us in terms of how far we’ve come. We’re not slowing down any time soon!”
Invivo has vineyards in Marlborough, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago and works with premium producing partners to produce wines such as Prosecco from Italy, Shiraz from Australia, Malbec from Argentina and Gin and Vodka from Ireland.
Judges who visited Invivo said they were impressed with the company’s bold approach to marketing; business development; funding; diversification strategies with respect to products, geographical spread, with influencers they work with and regarding the origin of the grapes, with expansions into Italy.
“The team understands the local nuances in the retail sector deeply and approaches business development and capacity in a strategic manner. And they understand the art of standing out in a crowded marketplace. This has clearly led to the positive results the company is delivering. For a winery which started in 2008 and saw its real expansion in 2016, being profitable is a very commendable achievement, especially given the 700 plus wineries with much longer heritage in New Zealand.”
Tim said the win was a team effort.
“As a lean, but very capable team with 15 members at our winery and office working across all departments from production and winemaking to sales, marketing and finance, every person’s role at Invivo counts. At a time when trading internationally is tougher than ever, we couldn’t do it without every team member, Graham and SJP, and all of our importers and distributors around the world who believe in Invivo and what we do. We’d also like to thank the judges, the other finalists – we were among some tough competition! – and the sponsors. These two wins mean the world to all of us at Invivo and make us proud to be part of the Waikato.”