DOBSON — Hundreds of wine industry professionals from throughout the southeastern United States converged on Surry Community College Thursday.
According to SCC viticulture instructor Joseph Geller the college’s fourth-annual Wine Symposium attracts winemakers, vineyard owners and even folks who work in tasting rooms.
Geller said the event, which is hosted at the college’s Shelton-Badgett Viticulture and Enology Center, caters to industry professionals from across a number of states. He said the college also hosts an event which focuses on North Carolina wineries and vineyards.
“This is a technical conference to support the growth of this industry,” explained Geller. “We educate industry professionals in enology, viticulture and even marketing.”
Marketing was also the topic of the event’s keynote speaker. Michael Moore is the chief marketing officer for Lowe’s Foods. Moore said Lowe’s is an “authentically local” grocery store chain which started in Wilkesboro. However, Moore said Lowe’s recently came to the realization that the chain needed a “re-branding.”
After telling visitors that North Carolina’s wineries and vineyards are a $1.3 billion business, Moore said Lowe’s re-branding has been hugely successful. However, he said that’s only because the grocery stores focused on the customer in its efforts to give Lowe’s a face-lift.
“If you’re not delighting your guests, you become irrelevant,” Moore told the assembly.
Moore said Lowe’s personnel went shopping with customers in order to get a grip on what made shopping a pleasant, enjoyable and memorable experience.
“We learned price wasn’t as important as environment,” explained Moore. “Rational versus emotional is always at play in the shopping experience.”
Moore told the wine industry professionals that 83 percent of information is gathered visually. However, he said when smell and sound are coupled with the visual, the reaction of a customer rises exponentially.
Moore described Lowe’s Foods’ new marketing schemes such as a “pick your own herb farm” and a chicken dance that is done at “re-branded” Lowe’s stores every time rotisserie chickens are removed from the oven as being key in the store’s initiative.
“It creates a whimsical experience,” said Moore, who went on to tell the group that the same sort of things can be done on a smaller scale at a winery or vineyard.
Guests at the symposium also enjoyed a lunch which was paired with the many wines SCC students create at the viticulture and enology center.
While Moore’s presentation may have headlined the event, there were opportunities for attendees to get more hands-on education. The day included classes about wine making, grape growing and more in-depth marketing schemes.
Classes were taught by industry professionals and members of academia from as far away as Washington State University.
Some of those who gathered at the college were also lucky enough to win door prizes ranging from a bottle of SCC’s 50th anniversary sparkling wine to tools donated by Bahco Pruning Tools.
There was also an opportunity for tasting Thursday evening, when industry professionals had the opportunity to taste each others’ products under the stars at SCC’s campus.
Andy is a staff writer for The News and can be reached at (336) 415-4698.