Wed, 11 Dec 2019
An impoverished student in London, Robin Copestick had run out of money and went looking for a part-time job to see him through his studies.
Little did he know back then that the job would eventually lead him to the top of one of the country’s most successful sparkling wine companies.
After attending school in Taunton, Robin headed to university in London, where he studied business and marketing.
His part-time job was with Moreno Wines.
Robin was taken under the wing of owner, Juan Moreno, who had escaped from Spain during the civil war of the 1930s.
His wife was one of nearly 4,000 children who fled the bombing in Guernica aboard the Habana in 1937, bound for Southampton.
After finishing his studies, the owner asked Robin what he was planning to do and whether he was interested in becoming the shop’s first salesman. He agreed.
“It is such a coincidence because I was selling Freixenet to the Spanish bars and delicatessens in London in my first job,” he explains.
That was in the 1980s and Robin went on to become the company’s first sales director, before being joint managing director.
But in 2001 it was time to move on and he joined McGuigan Wines as European general manager.
Just a few years later, in July 2005, Robin founded Copestick Murray with Paul Murray and has never looked back.
Within the first few years, Copestick Murray, a wine distributor based in Marlborough, created Ogio – in partnership with Tesco and selling more than two million cases a year – and set up an American arm named Cornerstone.
By 2013, the opportunity arose for Copestick Murray to work with German company Henkell and Co.
“Henkell wanted to buy a distribution company in the UK as it didn’t have a route to market here,” Robin explains.
“The two companies were mutually ambitious.
“They owned wineries all over Europe and were well backed by Dr Oetker.
“We were doing very well but didn’t have the money to grow as we wanted.
“The synergies were really good.”
When Henkell bought into Copestick Murray, turnover was £15m; last year’s turnover surpassed £75m.
“The growth we have experienced in the last five years is immense,” 56-year-old Robin adds.
“We were growing, but the partnership really helped speed things up.”
Just three years later, Henkell bought the remaining stake in Copestick Murray, with Robin continuing to run it as managing director.
Then on August 1, 2018, Henkell and Co merged with The Freixenet Group and became the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world.
A few months later, on January 1, 2019, Copestick Murray and Freixenet UK, both wholly owned subsidiaries of Henkell and Co, also merged to create Freixenet Copestick.
The companies moved into new joint offices in Newbury.
This made the company the largest sparkling wine importer in the UK and the UK’s fastest growing major wine company.
“The merger has worked really well,” said Robin, who is joint managing director of Freixenet Copestick with Damian Clarke.
“We have a nice new office and are very happy to be in Newbury and be part of the community.
“We are looking to start business/corporate wine tasting and really become part of the community.”
Just months after moving into the district, the company won the Innovation in Business prize at the Newbury Weekly News Best in Business Awards 2019, which were held at Newbury Racecourse last month.
After the awards, head of marketing for Freixenet Copestick Lucy Auld said: “We are absolutely delighted to win the Innovation in Business Award.
“Innovation is a real focus of our business and this recognition will inspire us to continue innovating and dreaming up new concepts.
“Innovation has been key to igniting the growth of our business.”
It was this entrepreneurial innovation and creativity that first caught the attention of parent company Henkell.
“The only way the company could survive was to create our own ideas and products,” adds Robin.
“Nothing was ever given to us.
“Innovation is very much part of our ethos and we are very much at the vanguard of that in the wine industry.
“We always want to create something new and exciting; it’s part of our DNA.”
One of the company’s most successful ideas has been the development of its i heart Wines series.
And another first will see Freixenet Copestick offering personalised bottles of its i heart wines this Christmas, which will all be created in-house at the company’s Newbury HQ.
“Personalisation is becoming a big thing in all industries and it’s something that i heart really lends itself well to,” Robin says.
“We have some other new ideas too.
“We want to do something with low or no-alcohol, which we think could be very big for the future.
“We are also looking at fair trade, where we will invest some of the profit back into the local community, and are currently looking at who we can partner with for that.”
This month also sees the launch of i heart Gin and i heart Pink Gin, which is available in Nisa stores now and will be sold in Sainsbury’s from January.
“It has been distilled to our recipe,” Robin explains.
“Henkell own a spirit factory in Poland, so it is being made within the group, to our specific recipe.
“It was so popular once we had it perfected and I think it will be rolled out nationally very, very quickly.”
When he is not working, Robin enjoys playing golf and squash, travelling and going to nice restaurants.
Since the office moved into Newbury Business Park this summer, Robin has discovered his new favourite pub too – The Royal Oak at Yattendon.
Freixenet Copestick employs more than 50 people and has three of the largest wine brands in the UK. Freixenet itself is the largest sparkling wine brand in the UK and both i heart and Freixenet are achieving significant year-on-year growth.
Freixenet Copestick also manages a wide portfolio of branded wines, beers and spirits, as well as having large private label supply agreements.