Last Updated on November 2, 2023 by nicole
Howard Marx is the Founder and CEO of Vinvinea, a global B2B enterprise at the forefront of reshaping the wine industry. His visionary leadership has catalyzed a transformation by providing wineries, distributors, and retailers with cutting-edge digital solutions that enhance profitability and redefine product positioning and sales strategies. As Founder and CEO, Howard spearheads multinational, cross-functional teams, dedicated to driving customer sales growth, harnessing the power of digital innovations, and fostering consistent expansion of the firm’s customer base and year-over-year revenue.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Howard introduces the revamped Vinvinea platform and highlights a significant development related to a new EU regulation set to take effect on December 8th
- Howard explains the details of the new EU regulation, and how Vinvinea’s platform plays a crucial role in compliance
- Step into the world of QR codes for wine labeling
- Understand Vinvinea’s pricing plans and their unique 30-day free trial
- Howard explains how QR codes in labels can help consumers, like putting translations for various languages and complying with EU requirements
- The conversation moves to feedback from EU wineries
- Howard discusses the alternative of physical label compliance and highlights the benefits of using QR codes
- Explore the possibility of dual labeling in regions like the U.S. and the evolving landscape of wine bottle labeling worldwide
- Howard discusses the challenges Vinvinea faced and the decisions they had to make to rapidly roll out their innovative solution
In this episode with Howard Marx
Join us as we dive into the intricacies of the new EU wine labeling regulations with Howard Marx of Vinvinea. Learn about the groundbreaking changes in the industry, including the detailed requirements of the new EU regulation effective from December 8th. Discover how Vinvinea’s innovative solutions, like unique QR codes for wine bottles, are revolutionizing the way wineries comply with these regulations.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Howard Marx, Founder and CEO of Vinvinea. Howard shares insights on the challenges faced and decisions made to implement this system swiftly and efficiently. Get an exclusive peek into the future of wine labeling, exploring options, feedback from the industry, and the seamless user experience provided by Vinvinea’s cutting-edge technology.
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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. On the show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry build stronger bonds between their customers and brands through authentic content.
Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. Today, we’re talking with Howard Marx, founder and CEO of Vinvinea. Howard was on the show earlier this year, and today we’re checking in on the latest updates. Welcome to the show, Howard.
[00:00:31] Howard Marx: Thank you, Drew. It’s great to be here.
[00:00:34] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, I’m so happy to be on. So it sounds like there’s a lot of, a lot of cool news coming out of Vinvinea.
[00:00:41] Howard Marx: Yes.
[00:00:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Tell us about it.
[00:00:43] Howard Marx: Yes, definitely. We’re eager to tell everyone that we’ve revamped our platform to integrate new solutions on it. And one of them is the new EU regulation that came out this year will be in effect, December 8th, will be enforced starting December 8th. So that’s our new news. And that’s
[00:01:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What’s this new EU regulation, fill our listeners in on that.
[00:01:19] Howard Marx: Sure, sure. So the EU has regulated that every single wine bottle that is sold, obviously within the EU, has to come with of or abide by the law and that it, there are a couple of things that they need to abide by. So, first of all, the law comes into effect December 8th, 2023 this year, in about 2 months and wineries are abide, must abide by this to sell their wine bottles to the public.
Now, the first thing is they need to publish required nutritional and ingredient information that’s the first and foremost important. So the same way other package goods have a nutritional information, one will be required to do so. The option was left open to publish it electronically, not on the physical label. So that gave way to our innovation on a QR code. So we would, I’ll speak a bit more about it, in a minute, but QR code on the label and that would be read by the consumer on their mobile phone, any mobile phone, and that would give them the information on it. Now, there are a couple more things, related to this.
New regulation, a new law. First of all, it must include allergens, sustainability, packaging, recycling, and a couple of other things mentioned on that. Yes. Definitely. And it is very clear on wineries not having it published on their own website or websites that hold sales or marketing information.
So, that’s why I’ll tell you a bit more about it in a second. That’s why we have the best solution in the market for wineries and vineyards.
[00:03:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Interesting. So they almost, so they’re requiring almost a third party to maintain that information.
[00:03:59] Howard Marx: Correct.
[00:03:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow. Okay. So they can either put the information on the labels, so then it’s standing as a third party or engage with a service like you have, Vinvinea, where you, people scan the QR code and they get all this information.
Let’s tell me more about the, the nutritional, cause I know in the U S there’s been a big, there’s been a lot of discussion about how wine labels do not have that. And there’s been a push to move towards that nutritional information. What does that include? Like the calories, the
So the nutritional
[00:04:35] Howard Marx: information in the EU has five specific, let me grab that. So it’s the fiber, the fat content, the salt content, not sodium. As it is in the States, it’s actually salt. It includes the, obviously the NACL, the chlorine, and carbohydrates. And those must be specified. Sorry.
Yes. Which includes the sugars, of course, and those must be specified. Now we have all of that on our website. Easy and an easy way to, to input. Not only can you input it easily, but you can also import it. We have an import function where you can just upload a file, which makes it incredibly easy for any winery or any vineyard to do so.
So again, we hold the URLs, in a very secure way. We’re actually using Google Cloud, which is great. And that way, wineries and vineyards can comply with EU regulations. Now, I do want to tell you something, Drew, which is also interesting. Most people listening might say, oh, EU. But we’re not in the EU.
Well, if you do sell your wines in the EU, say you have a California Vineyard or Washington or what have you, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, so on and so forth. Then you must abide by this. So it’s not only EU, vineyards, wineries, but also anyone who’s selling their products.
[00:06:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And yeah, they’re importing it. Now, just a bit more curiosity, since I haven’t seen some of these labels, I would, I could see the sugar levels varying a lot, but when you compare label to label, how many?
Like, does the fiber content vary a lot between the wines or the, or the salt content?
[00:06:44] Howard Marx: No, it doesn’t. It’s usually zero on fiber and zero on salt as we all know. But because this is the, format of all nutritional information in the EU, then wine has to abide by it. They have to abide.
[00:07:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Do they have to put the ingredients in?
[00:07:07] Howard Marx: Yes.
[00:07:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Like, if they add, any other special stuff, like, to their wines?
[00:07:12] Howard Marx: Yes, definitely. That’s a great point. So, ingredients… Any substances that are significant, that’s how the law is published, and any allergens or intolerances must be labeled. Now the allergens and intolerances must go on in bold, but they can go on the electronic label.
They don’t need to go on the physical label. So they did check in the EU. So it’s a brand new type of label. And, what, what is great about it is that when you place the QR code on the label, then you liberate free up a lot of space on the physical label then you can use for any marketing or any sales purposes that you might, design so on and so forth.
[00:08:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now, is this retroactive too? So some of these lines have already been labeled. I mean, they’ve been sitting around and now they’re getting imported. Is you, are they making them stick like a retroactive label on it or do they have to be relabeled?
[00:08:27] Howard Marx: No, no, no. So anything that has been produced starting December 8th must abide by this.
There’s no retroactivity. So that’s, that’s the first thing. The other thing I don’t want to forget to tell you, Drew, is that the law is clear on December 8th. When you can actually retire the QR code and you can retire the QR code when the last bottle has been consumed.
[00:08:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, geez.
[00:08:57] Howard Marx: That’s right. That’s
[00:08:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How do you know?
[00:09:00] Howard Marx: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s the answer. Never.
[00:09:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow.
[00:09:05] Howard Marx: Because you might have a bottle of Bordeaux, you know, somewhere hidden behind you. And your children or grandchildren might end up, you know, consuming that. So they want, would want to read that label. So basically, yes.
[00:09:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So it’s a, it’s gotta be just a permanent repository and each vintage.
So each vintage has to be lab tested. Each wine gets its own QR code. So you can imagine the amount of, QR codes out there that need to be generated.
[00:09:35] Howard Marx: Correct. And that’s why we did what we, you know, what we did. We offer, actually two ways of doing this. One, like you just said, is the QR code for, you know, the vintage and the whole batch.
I may say, you know, you are 30,000 bottles, 20,000 bottles. And two, if you wanna go one by one serial way, which a lot of French vineyards and wineries have done. You could actually, we could actually generate a QR code individually, unique for each bottle.
[00:10:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, wow. If you want to like kind of guarantee the provenance.
[00:10:18] Howard Marx: Correct.
[00:10:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, that’s, that’s fascinating. Now tell me about the, I mean, talk to me about the pricing model. Cause it seems like someone creates a QR code. Are they committing to Vinvinea for life to support it?
[00:10:32] Howard Marx: Well, nothing is forever, but it will be for a very long time. As long as Google is here and, you know, all the other Microsoft and so on and so forth, we’ll be here.
So our pricing plan, we have four pricing plans. But before I get into those, I, I just want to be clear, we went above and beyond to do something that we’ve never done, which is to have a 30-day free trial period for everyone. So everyone gets a 30-day free trial period to test it and make sure that everything we’re, we’re so sure about our product, that that’s what we, you know, we’ve come up with.
So on the pricing plans, we have four pricing plans. The first one is for up to 30, 30 e labels. So 30 QR codes, obviously it includes a 30-day free trial plan. And it’s 199 US dollars, which you could also pay in euros. It’s 169 euros. And it also includes these plans also include.
What Vinvinea originally was created for, which is to find new business partners in the wine industry, which is, you know, connecting wineries to importers and distributors in any country. Whether it’s a country that, you know, you’ve already sold your products in or you want to change distributors or you just want to create new markets, open up new markets and, and have connections and contacts with importers and distributors.
So our standard plan is 309. These are yearly plans. 269 euros. So they’re very economical. I mean, yeah, these are yearly plans, not monthly. Our premium plan is for, for 59 U. S. dollars, 399, euros. And the unlimited plan is 999 U. S. dollars and 869 euros. So either of those would be great for anyone, any, any winery.
[00:13:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So that, that allows you to create the QR code and then it also allows them to host it. What if they decided not to re-up next year? Does the QR codes go away and they need to figure out a new solution? Okay. So they can then host that label. Okay.
[00:13:22] Howard Marx: Yes. But why, why would anyone, why would anyone want to leave us?
[00:13:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Can you describe what someone sees once they scan the QR code?
[00:13:33] Howard Marx: Sure. What, what you would see is actually the, the label on your phone. And what’s incredible about it is twofold. One, the labels can be translated and must be translated to at least 24 EU languages, EU languages.
So we have many more than 24. We have 102 languages. So that’s the first thing. And that’s for free. That’s included in, in the price. So you can, you know, if you’re selling your wines in France, in Germany, in Poland, which are all part of the EU, you have no issues, split second, everything’s translated to Polish, German, French, Italian, or what have you.
And two, wait, I lost the train of thought there. Yes, it’s translated and to you, I mean. Yes, we hold, we hold the U. R. L. S. When you see the, oh, yes when you see the wine label on your mobile phone, it’s the exact format that the EU is requiring. So we don’t have additional sales and marketing.
That’s definitely something important, but we did add certain things that we could, which are, you can place your logo, your icon, your images on who’s, who’s your distributor, who’s your order, packaging, recycling, consumption, responsible consumption, so on and so forth, geographical indication, appellation, so on and so forth.
So we do have all those available for, for the user.
[00:15:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s great. So you’ve got the, you’ve got the stuff that’s required, but then they can go beyond and provide other content as well. When someone scans the code.
[00:15:34] Howard Marx: Correct.
[00:15:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now, that’s amazing. So automatically just as part of the service, you get the label basically translated into a hundred languages. Or 24 required ones.
[00:15:44] Howard Marx: Yes. The 24 required EU languages have to, have to come in. Yes, they’re there.
[00:15:51] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And is that a recent requirement or is that a, I mean, I guess QR codes are new.
[00:15:57] Howard Marx: Yeah. Well, this is part of the, the law that will come into effect as December 8th this year.
[00:16:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And what sort of feedback are you getting from the wineries in the EU that are trying to implement this right now?
[00:16:14] Howard Marx: Excellent feedback. We’ve done an incredible job. Of, you know, putting all of this together and having the best user experience, not only in the easiness but on the quickness of uploading and our prices are just incredible. So we’ve had excellent, excellent feedback. We’ve been published, will be published on a couple of magazines, both online and, and hard copies. And, yeah, so we’re been very happy, and we’re, we’re eager to, to help, you know, any winery in the States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, abroad generate greater, greater sales in the EU.
[00:17:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now, as far as, what is the alternative to QR codes make total sense because you have the ability to just put so much more information out there, but what’s the alternative to a QR code that people might choose?
[00:17:27] Howard Marx: Well, the EU law is very clear. If you don’t opt to use an electronic form then you must place it on your physical label. To place all of this information on a physical label is going to require quite a, quite a label because there’s a lot of information that has to be, that has to be placed.
[00:17:52] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I can only imagine having cramming in 24 languages, 24 languages onto the back of the label doesn’t seem possible.
So it seems like really the, the electronic is really the only source. Unless you’ve got a really, really, really small print.
[00:18:08] Howard Marx: Yes, and one of the other options that we have is that once you download the QR code and you send it off to print if you’ve done any mistake or you would want to edit anything for any reason whatsoever, you would log in to Vinvinea, you would update it and split second all of those 30, 000 bottles. Are updated, no, no, no matter where they are. Yeah.
[00:18:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Now is it, does there need to be like a third party monitoring or can a winery just put in whatever information they want?
[00:18:43] Howard Marx: No, no, they can put any information they want. I mean, there’s, you know, we are not. Obviously, we’re not the EU where, you know, they should be abiding by the regulations were just the media, the mechanism to do so easily and quickly.
[00:18:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, you’re not, you’re not the label police. You’re just not on the platform for them to behave in the legal manner.
[00:19:07] Howard Marx: Yeah, absolutely not. And that’s a good point Drew because if for example, we calculate the energy values in kilojoules. And kilocalories as the EU stipulates. But if you so desire, you could actually update those values to whatever values you, the user, deem as, as important. Yeah.
[00:19:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Now this is rolling out some, the regulations go out December 8th, but is this already being rolled out? Like, are we seeing this in Europe right now?
[00:19:47] Howard Marx: Yes, so a lot of wineries have already rolled out the QR codes on their labels, just, you know, in preparation. The law is approved, has been approved.
It just goes into effect this December 8th. And one more thing that’s quite important is that this time it only includes wine. Not including beer and it’s not including spirits, but yeah, but we do see that coming, soon. Beer and spirits and we also, what, what happens, I don’t know if you, you know, I’m sure everyone listening would know what happened to the iPhone 15 that with a USB cable, the USB C that the this is, this Apple had to abide by this because of the EU law, cause they couldn’t mass produce obviously phones for the States and for the EU.
So. Yeah. Basically, we believe that not only will the states abide by this in the future, or have their own QR regulation, but maybe Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other wine-producing countries will.
[00:21:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Will move towards that. And I know there’s been some discussion. I think there’s new rules coming out in the U. S. right now. Where it has to have recycling label, labeling content that I think a few wineries have really even realized. There was some chatter I saw on Slack channel the other day about the new labeling requirements. Are you, do you have any knowledge of that going forward in the U. S.?
[00:21:36] Howard Marx: No, I’ve been so concentrated that, that, hopefully regulation can come in and be updated in the States because it’s, we have a very, I say, I would say old regulation in place right now.
But yeah, hopefully, and we welcome that, because we may now we’re probably, you know, we would modify, adapt. You know, and update our, our, our platform to, to offer that solution to wineries in the States and even Canada. So, yeah.
[00:22:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s kind of fascinating that beer and spirits are not held accountable to it. You would think that the nutritional content on that would be far more varied than a bottle of wine.
[00:22:27] Howard Marx: That’s right. That’s right. I’m not too sure why that’s the case, but yes, it is the case. And so this time we are in spirits where, we’re given green light. But, yeah.
[00:22:38] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Who are the major advocates of making this law come into existence?
[00:22:43] Howard Marx: That’s a very good question. I wish I knew.
[00:22:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I’m kind of wondering, was it the beer and spirits industry forcing the wine industry to do it?
[00:22:51] Howard Marx: Yeah, I’m not too sure, but I do know something. To get the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Polish, the Portuguese, and a couple of other important EU countries, on the, on the same page is quite a feat. So, yes. So
[00:23:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What’s the, what’s the, what’s the enforcement? Like what, what happens if you don’t honor this and you’re selling illegal bottles?
[00:23:22] Howard Marx: Yes. So if you don’t abide by this, then there’s a penalty that will be issued to the winery. It’s about, I don’t know, I want to say it’s about 30, 000 euros, depending on how, yeah, which is about 32 or 33, 000 US dollars, depending on how fast you act up on, on the, on, yeah, on abiding.
So it is something that is worth doing. It’s worth coming to Vinvinea. It’s worth spending, you know, a couple of hundred dollars and getting things, done. Yeah.
[00:24:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So do you see wineries maybe like in the U S so that we’re going to have the U S label and then we would have the label that has the QR code going out or do you see the wineries just doing the standard label? Like, how do you envision the labeling process going?
[00:24:17] Howard Marx: So, yes, again, so going back to Apple and the iPhone 15 that came out a couple of days ago, they just abided by the USBC cable and they just threw out the lightning connector away and did away with that. So I, I do think that it won’t, it’s not worth the extra cost to label certain bottles and label certain other bottles in a different way.
It might just be, yeah, cost-prohibitive.
[00:24:51] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, this is a tremendous, this is definitely Vinvinea, Vinvinea’s 2. 0. What were the, I mean, it’s a lot’s happened since we talked in January. What were some of the, I mean, that was a tremendous amount of infrastructure that you built out. Talk to us about like any challenges that you had to overcome or anything that decisions that have to be made to roll this out so quickly.
[00:25:12] Howard Marx: Yes, a lot of challenges, those are, those, yes, those have been everywhere. Yeah, well, first of all, the law reading, reading law is quite tedious. That’s the first thing. Second of all, making sure that our platform abides by that in an easy way for the user to generate those QR codes.
And we hold those URLs, making sure the platform holds, making sure Google Cloud cooperates with us, and having those securely and it’s 99. 999 uptime. So on and so forth. So there’s, there’s plenty, plenty, plenty of work. We have a whole, we have a worldwide sales team as well doing a great job. And we have a development team doing an incredible job.
Making sure that each of the QR codes is unique. And so there’s hundreds and hundreds of QR codes that will be generated. So it’s quite a feat that we’ve done. And then we can also, you can also see it in a mobile version as well. So it’s quite, quite incredible. So we’re ready for everyone to use it and everyone to, to take advantage.
And, for right now, those are our prices. Hopefully, we don’t have to go up in price, but this is, you know, our service is impeccable.
[00:26:49] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, very reasonable. So, Howard, is there anything else you’d like the viewers to know? This has been a great check-in.
[00:26:56] Howard Marx: Well, no, just, thank you for the time and we, we are available on Vinvinea or Vinvinea, however, you want to pronounce it.
[00:27:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.
[00:27:07] Howard Marx: It’s either way. We spoke about this in our earlier chat. We did, we chose one of those names that, that could be pronounced both in the same way. You know, Anglo-Germanic languages and in the Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese languages. So either way, so it’s VIN, VIN again, EA. com, VINVINEA.com. So that’s our, that’s our website. That’s our platform. Yeah.
[00:27:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s great. Everybody’s got to go check that out. And if you’re trying to import, that’s the, I mean, export from the U S to Europe, this is going to be your go-to choice for complying.
[00:27:48] Howard Marx: Definitely and to prep for U.S, you know, change of U.S labeling or Canadian label, you know, Australian, New Zealand, wherever you export. I’m sure Japan, South Korea might change there are labeling as well. So for exporter, U. S. exporters to Japan, South Korea, even China is speaking of a change in labeling as well.
[00:28:16] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And it makes total sense to future proof your kind of future proof for labels for any kind of upcoming regulation shifts.
[00:28:26] Howard Marx: Correct.
[00:28:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I love it. Well, Howard, thank you so much for joining us today.
This has been a great check-in. We’ll have to check back in in a few months and see what your next Vinvinea 3. 0.
[00:28:38] Howard Marx: Yes, definitely. Thank you. And yes, there’s always something new. Same way Apple is always creating a new iOS and something, throwing something new in there. We’re coming up with, always coming up with new stuff.
[00:28:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: The ability to adapt is, is so important. And it’s great to hear that. Well, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:29:01] Howard Marx: Thank you. Take care.