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September 25, 2014

Barossa Trust Mark launch

The Barossa Valley is changing the way it does business. The recently minted Barossa Trust Mark will give one of the state's most prominent regions the power to put its best foot forward without fear or favour.

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  • Words: Joshua Fanning

“No risk, no reward,” says Linda Bowes, Chairperson of the launched-last-night Barossa Trust Mark. It’s the last thing Linda tells CityMag before we end the interview and it is the most salient.


Learn more about the
Barossa Trust Mark here

When information came through last week about the Barossa Trust Mark our editorial desk-lamps lit up – ‘finally, a modern approach to our State brand’ – we thought. ‘About time we caught up with the rest of the world’ – we thought.

“As far as we know,” says Linda, “the Barossa Trust Mark is a world first.” Oh – we thought.

Essentially, the Barossa Trust Mark is an umbrella brand that encompasses three related industry sectors – food, tourism and wine – in the one region. It’s a licence granted to companies that operate in the Barossa Valley, but it is exclusively reserved for companies who exhibit the core values of the Mark, such as integrity, community and commitment to the environment. It positions the region firmly as a premium brand in the market and it was created, says Linda, “as a way to speak directly to consumers”.

“We looked at various other things that were being done but at the end of the day,” says Linda, “sure we could take some guidance from those but we really had to craft our own thing.”

The Mark is disruptive. It challenges the way consumers engage with produce and products and it leads us toward a smarter economy.

The resulting scheme, which was developed over three years, has approved 25 inaugural licensees that range from baked goods to bed and breakfasts. The important thing to understand is that the system does not approve whole companies, but instead evaluates each product or service as it is submitted, so they can be sure the Mark is only applied to things that meet the criteria.

“Langmeil is a good one to look at,” she says. “Their Valley Floor Shiraz isn’t their most premium or most expensive product but it’s the one that they felt epitomised a lot of what they do and part of their story, so that’s the one they’ve chosen to put through.”

Speaking with Linda, we imagine her reclined in a Sou-Wester deck chair on the verandah of her hundred-year-old home, overlooking a vineyard in the Barossa. Linda has to interrupt our assumptions… just one more time. “No, I’m in Adelaide,” she says. “I’m based in Adelaide.”

The reason we confess to our ignorance is because it’s the perfect way to understand the importance of this Mark. The world recognises the Barossa Valley as a leading wine region and toasts its shiraz and cabernet offerings by the glass full. Australia and South Australia, too, perpetuate a narrative about the region and what we believe it to be. However, up until now, there has been very little communicated from the region about what it values and recognises about itself. Going on record, enshrining the brand, protecting the region’s values and correcting assumptions in the marketplace, no matter how ‘picturesque’ or laconic they may be, is an important and intelligent move by the three regional associations who came together to create the Barossa Trust Mark.

The Mark is disruptive. It challenges the way consumers engage with produce and products and it leads us toward a smarter economy – where it’s not only the product being sold, but also the culture which creates them.

“It’s very much about the strength of the region and getting stronger by helping each other.”

“The caveat I would put on it,” says Linda, “is the maturity of the region and the cohesiveness of the region is really, really important. If you haven’t got that to start with, this process would be fraught with peril. Some of that maturity to have at the start is really important, particularly if you’re going to tackle three sectors together.”

Some Trust Mark holders are signed up to help mentor other companies in the region and help them through the process to attain the Mark themselves.

“So while this is an aspirational mark, it’s not elitist,” says Linda.  “It’s very much about the strength of the region and getting stronger by helping each other.”

Good feelings and camaraderie aside, the Mark’s future has the potential to be controversial. CityMag imagines that once the economic effect of the Mark is calculated (assumedly through a growing profit margin for license holders), failed applicants might turn into sour grapes. This is why it would have been impossible for the State Government to establish a similar scheme, as the elevation of one product or private producers (even on merit) above others, would send red tape alarms bells ringing.

So this initiative is, a calculated risk. A “step change” as Linda puts it.

“When we started this process, on the marketing side, the question I asked our team was, ‘okay we’ve got a new marketing plan for the region’s wine – that’s great. But are we just making incremental improvements or are we really taking a step change here?” Because if we’re not taking a step change we’re going backwards,” says Linda.

But it’s risk as well that will give the Mark value in the consumer’s mind. Who hasn’t been at the supermarket, or bottle shop and especially online, and felt the weight of a purchase decision? The fear of buying the wrong thing encourages a lack of exploration and experimentation. Fear of change keeps things the same. And our State simply can’t afford for the status quo to remain.

This Mark isn’t just a pretty logo to stick on some of our state’s best products. It’s a device that empowers people: don’t just “Buy SA” – buy the best.

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