In 2020/21, CHEFS carried out an exploratory study of digital storytelling in the context of the Midlands and North wine region of the UK.
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The Midlands and North region of the UK wine industry comprises over 80 small-scale wineries (WineGB 2020). Small-scale wineries typically rely on on-site (‘cellar door’/’farm gate’) sales, and on local food, beverage and hospitality SMEs for their trade. These routes to market foreground the importance of storytelling by a host of actors, including the winemaker, winery representative, restaurateur, sommelier, and independent retailer. It is via their capacity as storytellers that the craft and heritage qualities of small-scale wines are made legible to consumers, and framed as distinctive features that afford some competitive edge in a marketplace crowded with other, often much larger-scale competitors.
The need for a better understanding of storytelling as a form of market intervention is arguably all the more important for wines and wineries that cannot take their routes to market or credibility in the marketplace for granted, as is the case for small and emerging wineries in the Midlands and North region.
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic fundamentally disrupted the market relations for small-scale wineries: the shuttering of tasting rooms, bars and restaurants revealed supply chain and marketing communication vulnerabilities. At the same time, the sudden, inescapable pivot to direct to consumer online sales, and the use of digital platforms and virtual tastings and tours suggested potential for lasting innovation and development in wine regions around the world.
Therefore, there was a timely need for critical insight into how regional small-scale winery storytelling is delivered, both through established practices and recent digital innovations, and to identify obstacles and opportunities for more effective storytelling and storytellers in light of the lessons learned from CV19.
The project was made possible through funding from:
- Sheffield Hallam University Social and Economic Research Institute ‘Connecting with Professional Practice Project Fund’, 2020/21;
- Sheffield Business School Department of Service Sector Management Fieldwork Fund, 2020/21;
- European Regional Development Fund/Sheffield Innovation Programme; 2021.