Trips vital to finding new products: NLC CEO

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Barb Sweet
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Newfoundland Liquor Corp. president and chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Winter displays cases of vintage French wines at the NLC headquarters' warehouse on Kenmount Road in St. John's Friday afternoon. - Photos by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) head Steve Winter's travel log may look glamourous, but he views it as just essential business.

Even if it involves tasting hundreds of wines at an international show.

"It gets to be work. To taste 300 wines over three days, you spit it out. If you drink it, you won't know what you are doing," Winter said.

"Three hundred wines is tiresome.

"You have to take it seriously, otherwise you shouldn't be there."

The NLC president and CEO spent some $51,000 travelling in 2011 to destinations such as New York and France.

In previous years, Winter has taken in events in Greece, Italy, London and Chile, to name a few.

But he said the facetime is needed to find unique products and promote the corporation's brand.

Winter, a wine connoisseur of 30 years, also handles the purchase of Bordeaux futures - buying choice vintages ahead of time at the best price - for this province, as well as the Maritimes.

He also attends general retail conferences as well as exhibitions in other provinces.

"We've increased the variety of products that we've got and that's been a key to driving our sales. And we've increased the products because we have gone aggressively looking for variety to bring to the marketplace to cause it to grow," Winter said.

"And that's one of the reasons why my travel takes me to where it takes me."

Winter serves at the behest of the premier, now Kathy Dunderdale, but was appointed by Danny Williams.

He said he was directed to run the corporation as a business and cites sales increases as a sign business is booming, especially for spirits, wine and beer.

"You can't do that by sitting behind a desk," Winter said.

"You've got to go make contacts, see how other places operate."

There are distributers who knock on the NLC's doors, but they are the ones who deal with all the other liquor corporations around the country, Winter said.

"We're trying to differentiate ourselves from that. Anybody can do that. That's not putting down anyone who comes over the doorstep by any means, but we'd like to have some different things," he said.

In 2007, the NLC had sales of $151.4 million. Sales are now nearing $230 million.

By 2013, it expects to be passing $140 million over to the provincial government in dividends, up $40 million from 2007.

The bottling plant, now called Rock Spirits, produced 390,000 cases in fiscal 2012 with new products and contracts and new markets for popular Crystal Head - actor Dan Aykroyd's vodka - which is filtered through diamonds. Crystal Head is now being shipped to Ontario, as well as places like Australia, Europe and India.

And the NLC plans to build a new warehouse - the request for proposals were due Friday. That will allow more room for product from the bustling bottling plant at the Kenmount Road, St. John's, headquarters.

The warehouses are now a maze of rooms in the basement of the office facility.

The bottling plant will stay on Kenmount, but the warehouse for products sold in NLC stores will be relocated to the new facility at a different, more traffic friendly location.

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Boxe(s):

TRAVEL LOG

2011

> Destinations: New York, Toronto, France, Montreal/Quebec, Minneapolis, Halifax, Niagara Falls

Total: $51,604.92

2010

> Destinations: New York, Florida, Montreal, Vancouver, Greece. British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, Italy, Halifax, New York, Nova Scotia

Total: $33,108.27

2009

> Destinations: France, New York, London, Toronto, Spain, Halifax, PEI, Boston, Fredericton, N.B.,

Total: $49,105.48

2008

> Destinations: New York City, Toronto, PEI, Chile, Florida, Yellowknife, Nova Scotia

Total: $20,312.34

Source: Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp.

Organizations: NLC, Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor

Geographic location: New York City, France, Greece Italy London Chile Toronto Ontario Montreal Florida Nova Scotia Australia Europe India Kenmount Road St. John's Quebec Minneapolis Niagara Falls Vancouver British Columbia Alberta Spain Boston Fredericton Yellowknife

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Recent comments

  • Blake
    May 28, 2012 - 14:11

    I also can't help but comment - why does someone always have to bring up Danny Williams? Nobody can talk about hockey, liquor, or the weather anymore without discussing Our Lord and Saviour's role in the matter... Liquor prices are up because the affluent are big alcohol consumers - prosperity among the wealthy equals increased demand for fine wine and spirits, not to mention it creates a booming restaurant trade... The Average Joe doesn't seem to have quit drinking, either - alcohol was never a tough sell in Newfoundland. We should stop patting ourselves on the back for this one.

  • Blake
    May 28, 2012 - 14:04

    If the government privatized the NLC, the selection in St. John's would skyrocket. That is a fact. Alberta has the most products and the most consumer friendly system in Canada... The Newfoundland government would reel in just as much money under that kind of system - they'd still regulate the industry and probably maintain their wholesale operations... With that said, prices wouldn't drop very much - they'd stay the same, for the most part. The biggest difference is that NLC employees would be out of work... As unfortunate as that is, I don't think that the government should be in the liquor business anymore...

  • William King
    May 28, 2012 - 08:18

    Congratulations Steve on a job well done. The proof of your labour is the new products that I and the general public see each time we visit the liquor store. This is a job that cannot be performed sitting behind a desk 24 - 7. And Danny Williams certainly knew what he was doing when he appointed Mr. Winters to the position a number of years ago. When did Danny not look after the interests of the Newfoundland economy!

  • Anon
    May 28, 2012 - 04:02

    Let liquor into the free market. Let private business dictate the prices of liquor instead of our money-grubbing government. We can't get many spirits here in NL such as malt liquor or American Ryes but we get to pay 30 dollars for a bottle of something that costs ten in the states. The hell with that.

    • David
      May 28, 2012 - 16:18

      Amen and hallelujah. Grocery stores in the U.S. make money on the exact same wines at less than 1/3 the price. Yes, grocery stores everybody.....many U.S. states treat people like grown-ups. It's weird, eh!?

  • Joseph McGrath
    May 27, 2012 - 19:21

    The travel accounts of Mr.Winter seems to be what one would expect in his position at NLC.However we have private sector participation in some areas of beer and liquor sales at present and it seems to me that everything to do with liquor distribution and sales should be done by the private sector.It won't reduce prices but may help keep them in check.It is certainly worth a closer look!!!

  • David
    May 27, 2012 - 16:28

    There is no need for government to even be in this business, let alone pay for someone's vacations. It is a terrible waste of taxpayer money running the NLLC so inefficiently and wastefully, and it makes liquor much, MUCH more expensive than it can and should be. Thanks for nuttin'.

    • Jason
      May 27, 2012 - 17:58

      David, would you like to pay for the surgery to have your tonsils taken out? Or to get your broken arm in a cast? Pay a little extra for booze so government can provide services such as free health care. Something to think about

    • mary
      May 27, 2012 - 22:08

      it's high time governments got out of the liquor business. What a waste of money.I am sure private enterprise is quite capable of providing booze for whomever desires it.

    • pal
      May 27, 2012 - 22:09

      hey dave, there are finer things than your case of canadian or your flask of lambs. huge waste of money you say? consider the addition of 50k in travel expenses to the millions of dollars of profit brought in. all to enhance and diversify people's drunk'ifying endeavours. 'atta boy steve, keep up the good work

    • David
      May 28, 2012 - 16:14

      Pal: There are as many bottles of overpiced plonk at NLLC as there are bottles of overpriced, passable wines. Steve is an expensive, worthless failure. As ar as needing 'advice' on waht ot get drunk on, you think Newfoundlanders benefit much from such service? Really?! Jason...I'm entirely speechless. Tonsilectomy = getting drunk.