Coronavirus: How has it changed your job in the beverage industry? Part 2

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags coronavirus

With a quarter of the world's population in lockdown, the way we work has changed. But can your beverage business power on? Yes, it can: we talk to people in the industry and find out how they're adapting.

Derek Scott, brand director, Bunnahabhain Scotch Whisky

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you had to adapt?


DS: There is a new norm developing and we, as a company, are adapting what we do with great pace. If one positive comes out of this terrible situation, it is that we are becoming much better a digital marketing.

Our people are actively improving the presentation of our brands in digital channels and we are producing a lot of content at home.

I presented a half our tasting session, from my sitting room, of Bunnahabhain 12 year old and 25 year old whiskies last Friday. The production was very rudimentary involving an iPhone, a light rig and my wife.

In the past we would have had a much more slick agency produced production, but in the current environment we have to do what we can. Seemed to be quite successful with over 10,000 views and nearly 1,000 engagements.

Visit the Bunnahabhain Distillery Facebook page, if you’re interested. You’ll also get to meet my dog, whose name is Whisky Mac.

'I presented a tasting session from my sitting room. The production was rudimentary: involving an iPhone, a light rig and my wife'

I suspect we will be doing a lot more of this type of work.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

We have had to adapt quite a lot. Use of video conferencing has become part of our very day life.

We are also having to balance home life with work. Kids are not at school, so we often find ourselves in meetings with children (and sometimes dogs) on people's knees, while we talk. A little distracting, but also quite good fun. It is also testing our listening skills

BD: How are you finding home working? Are you a fan or not?

For short periods it is useful as there is some benefit to fewer distractions. But having colleagues around you is much more inspiring. So looking forward to getting abck to the office, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Lulie Halstead, chief executive, Wine Intelligence

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you had to adapt and change what your business can offer?


LH: Wine Intelligence offers insights and research covering 36 wine markets globally. Prior to the current coronavirus impact, we had team members located in 8 countries and clients based in more than 20 countries, so we had systems set up for remote and independent working.

We had to close all of our offices and switch to remote working so now all of our team our working from home in every market. We have been able to offer the same service to our clients, although it has taken us time to adjust to a new work pattern.

We’ve also re-written our syndicated reports publication plan in the last week, based on input and feedback from clients, to ensure we are delivering both timely and relevant insights that will genuinely help and support our wine business clients.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

LH: Previously I spent more than half of my time away from my primary office in London, visiting with clients and team members travelling globally and also speaking at conferences. I’ve now been based working from home for the past 2 weeks.

We have video calls for our specific teams in the business at the same time every day and we also have a whole company daily wrap up call each day at 5.30pm (for those based in Europe) which has been really useful and has ensured we are all keeping in touch. On Fridays, our wrap up call is also a virtual happy hour, so time to chat and unwind together as a team.

'I'm still getting used to having to schedule a call rather than just wandering up to a colleague's desk'

BD: How are you finding home working?

LH: I always enjoyed working from home on the occasions that I did, but am now findings that as it’s the new ‘permanent’, actually it is taking me longer to get things done and I feel that I’ve not yet reached the efficiency levels I’d like. I’m still getting used to having to schedule every call in advance as opposed to just wandering up to a colleague's desk.

We are now a household of four of us working from home, with my children back from school and university, so a dynamic that none of us have experienced before. It's bringing unexpectedly joys, but from a work perspective, I would say I am still establishing the new normal in terms of ways and styles of working.

The key area I’m focusing on is scheduling and routine, otherwise I’m finding its far to easy to just spend all day and evening ‘at the screen’.

Yannis Apostolopoulos, CEO, Specialty Coffee Assocation

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ for your association - and what about the wider specialty coffee sector?

Yannis Apostolopoulos

YA: The SCA is a global nonprofit association that represents thousands of specialty coffee businesses and professionals all over the world. Our annual events in the US and Europe, which are a big part of the work we do, draw tens of thousands of people and unfortunately have had to be either canceled or postponed.

We also offer education, through Authorized SCA Trainers, and given the in-person requirements of these courses, we’ve also seen a dramatic reduction in those as people stay home to avoid spreading or contracting the virus. 

It is most certainly not business as usual for our association but we’re working hard to provide resources for our members and the wider community and we’re looking at options to bring the benefits of our events and education in online formats. 

I would also point out that it’s not business as usual for the businesses and professionals across our industry, many of whom have had to shut down their operations or have lost their jobs. People are really suffering the effects of the coronavirus shutdown and it’s likely to have long-term effects on specialty coffee.

BD: How has your average working day changed? 

YA: Most staff and volunteer leadership of the association have been working remotely for many years, so the coronavirus outbreak has changed very little for most of us.

However, we do have offices in California, England, and South Korea and we asked our staff to stop visiting the offices and work from home. I am from Greece but have been living and working in California and certainly do miss seeing our staff in our office in the city of Santa Ana and being able to walk across the street to have lunch or coffee. 

We use Microsoft Teams to communicate with staff and have seen folks get creative by creating channels to talk about things unrelated to work, to support each other and just have fun every once in a while.

'A member of our staff based in Amsterdam recently started a daily dance party at the end of her working day'

A member of our staff based in Amsterdam recently started a daily dance party at the end of her working day where some members of staff join to dance for 10 minutes each day. I’m not much of a dancer, so I haven’t joined them yet, but I love that folks on our staff like each other and support each other this way. Maybe I’ll join them soon.

The health and safety of our staff and community is more important and I’m confident that when this is all over, getting together again will be even sweeter.

BD: How are you finding working from home?

YA: My wife, children, and I live in a small apartment, and my in-laws, who were visiting from Greece, will now be staying with us indefinitely as the current situation prevents them from traveling back home.

This is a highly unusual situation, so it’s hard to say whether I’m a fan of working from home, but I am certainly very fortunate to have the job I have that allows me to do so.

Most specialty coffee professionals — including farmworkers, farmers, importers/exporters, cafe owners, baristas — have jobs that inherently require face-to-face interactions, so working from home isn’t really an option for them. My heart goes out to them and my commitment as the CEO of the SCA is to continue doing the work that supports them, especially during these very difficult times.

Mark Meek, CEO, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis

Mark Meek, IWSR Headshot[2]

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you had to adapt and change what you offer? 

MM: It’s hardly ‘business as usual’ for anyone, but I’m very pleased with the way that our organization has adapted and come together to help one another adjust to this new normal.

The IWSR is the leading source of data and intelligence on the global beverage alcohol market, and that mission certainly hasn’t changed. Frankly, we’re quite accustomed to quickly responding to trends, and developing tools and products to help industry leaders make strategic, informed decisions about this continually changing industry.

With this current situation, for example, the IWSR is working on an in-depth COVID-19 Risk Assessment Model to help quantify and analyse the impact of COVID-19 on key markets, channels and price segments to help support our clients.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

MM: As a global organization, with analysts and colleagues spread across the world, we’re very accustomed and comfortable with remote meetings, video-conferencing, and team chat. We’re just doing more of that now, with more frequent check-ins with team members.

BD: How are you finding home working? Are you a fan or not?

MM: The silver lining is that I can spend more time with my family, but I do miss seeing and collaborating in-person with my colleagues in the office. Technology, thankfully, has allowed us to continue being productive, but there’s no substitute to being together.

Alice Milner, applications technologist, Synergy Flavours

thumbnail_Alice photo

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you had to adapt and change?

AM: I am normally in the lab 5 days a week where I am developing beverage and sports nutrition products with core and innovative flavourings. For now, I am only on site 3 times a week as we limit the amount of people on site at any time and ensure compliance with the social distancing instructions.

As such, we’ve had to work closely with our customers to ensure we can still support their key projects whilst managing timeframes.

On days at home, I am planning my lab work, which is making me feel more organised than normal! It’s also giving me the opportunity to work on projects which I don’t normally have time for e.g. research projects, training docs/presentations. So all in all, I am achieving a good balance and I’m as productive as I can be in the circumstances.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

AM: I am involved in quite a lot of remote meetings, as the team I work with is split between home and on site, so we are having daily catchups. Tastings, which are usually done in groups, involving discussion and interaction, are more difficult when you are spread out across the room because of social distancing. Lunches are lonelier as we all eat alone or at home instead of together!

'Having time to do my admin has made me more organised; and I've now got the space to think about different ways of solving challenges'

BD: How are you finding home working? Are you a fan or not?

AM: I am actually enjoying working from home. No distractions as it is just me at home and I have fewer tastings, which normally take up quite a lot of my time. There are also fewer last minute or ad-hoc meetings, which can disrupt the flow of the day.

Having time to do my admin has made me more organised and given me extra time to research and investigate different projects. It’s also given me the space to think about different ways of solving challenges and come up with new ideas.

I’m not bored of myself yet, so I am a fan (for now!), however, I do miss having colleagues to talk to and socialise with and it is sometimes easier to talk to someone face-to-face rather than over email or on the phone. We are using video calling though which definitely helps to make you feel more connected with colleagues.

Willemijn Schneyder, CEO, SwipeGuide

BD: How to you build a tech company during this time?


WS: As a young tech company we were already working with all the tools & processes you need to work effectively together in a remote organisation. So the shift to 100% was not difficult operationally.

However, in my role of CEO & CRO of the company about 60% of my work has to do with building long term relationships with our (potential) customers, our stakeholders and our own team.

And call me old fashioned, but I prefer doing that in the physical world. So that is a big adjustment. Not being able to go onsite with customers to walk around their plant & lines to really understand & analyse their process pain points is something we miss a lot.

As our SwipeGuide product, a software tool to create intelligent visual work instructions for use via mobile apps at the frontline, is easy to understand & get started with  online, we see our online sales intensifying rapidly now. 

BD: How has your average working day changed?

WS: In truth the first 2 weeks were a steep learning curve in which we took every day as a day to learn from and improve upon for the next. It is important to embrace the concept of always be learning these day. Allow yourself some failures. For me? In addition to the fact that 100% of the work is now virtual i.e. customer meetings, working with colleagues and outside stakeholders, I am a now also a teacher. I am mother to 2 amazing daughters, 3 and 9 yrs old. 

The new reality is that I’m also homeschooling my 9 year old daughter. Two weeks in we have found our rhythm, we work side by side and make a good team #alwaysbelearning is a SwipeGuide value the two of us build a lot on currently. I have learned that planning your day to balance virtual meetings with focused work and the moments for lunch or walk outside break is essential. 

'The first two weeks of working remotely were a steep learning curve'

BD: Your take on working remotely?

WS: At SwipeGuide the office is a place that is available to the teams as they see fit. To work together, to just do your (team) meetings, to socialize. I am a people person, so I miss that.

I love working remote, alone, for about 2 days a week to increase focus and productivity. Again the balance of both. Currently that is not possible as everyone is at home. In our family that is 5 people in the house balancing their schedules & needs. As challenging time for everyone across the globe.

And mostly I realise we are lucky with the environment we live and can work in. Not everyone is as fortunate to be able to live and work like this in this time of crisis. My heart goes out to everyone that is isolated, alone, locked down or without access to your own sanitation.


Part 1 of this feature can be found here:​ Find out how Australian Grape & Wine; beverage brand GetMoreVits; consultancy Zenith Global; Kombucha Brewers International and YesMore marketing agency are also adapting to the new reality. 

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