An approach by Invivo's Tim Lightbourne (left) and Rob Cameron (right) to television show host Graham Norton, who likes New Zealand wines, got Invivo on to his BBC prime-time show as the 'house wine' for guests. Photo by The New Zealand Herald.
It is not every New Zealand wine company whose product is
served up on prime BBC viewing, The Graham Norton
Show, every week.
Co-founders of Invivo Wine, Rob Cameron, winemaker, and Tim
Lightbourne, marketer, approached Norton when they read in an
interview that he liked New Zealand wine.
The BBC does not let the label show, but each guest is given
a bottle of wine, as well as a glass or two, at the show. As
a result, Sir Bob Geldof ordered it for the wedding of his
Back home, the two ex-Auckland Grammar boys also provide
their wine at Grammar old boys' functions, at Zambesi fashion
events - Zambesi is a shareholder - and for Creative New
Zealand, among others.
Thanks in part to a number of international and national
awards and accolades along the way, especially for its Invivo
Sauvignon Blanc and Central Otago Pinot Noir, Invivo recently
came 24th in the Deloitte Fast 50, reporting growth over the
past three years of 255%.
The fact remains, however, that both Mr Lightbourne and Mr
Cameron have had to do the hard yards since forming the
business in November 2007 and releasing the first wine in
''At that time it was the start of the global financial
crisis and it was the largest vintage that year,'' Mr
In that first year, the founders would set themselves up in
shops to promote the unknown wine label.
They were doing four or five tastings a week, starting out in
some New World supermarkets, Farro Fresh stores and Glengarry
Mr Cameron makes the label's Central Otago Pinot Noir and the
newly released Invivo Riesling at the Lochiel Estate Vineyard
and Winery in Mangawhai, which he established. Invivo has 13
growers in the country.
''For our wines from Marlborough we lease space in a winery
where Rob travels to Blenheim and spends time there,'' Mr
Mr Cameron, a Lincoln-qualified viticulturist, learned his
craft with Raupara Vintners and Villa Maria Estate, then
working throughout Europe including Cyprus, France and
Mr Lightbourne, who has had an international career marketing
everything from Heinz baked beans to L'Oreal's Garnier
products, said: ''We're targeting a different consumer, a
wine drinker who is not interested in the old French
''They approach wine the way they approach food.''
In the past year, the company has developed a low-alcohol
range in Sauvignon Blanc and Rose, which has been well
''It's all about picking the grapes a bit earlier,'' Mr
Light-bourne said. The Invivo Belle Sauvignon Blanc has
collected three medals already in 2012, in the same category
as normal-alcohol wines.
''The key with Invivo Belle, through work in the vineyard, is
we keep the residual sugar down to a standard level, around
5g per litre residual and still balanced,'' Mr Lightbourne
A glass of the low-alcohol wine has 30% fewer calories than
regular wine. The company is seeing a lot of growth in
Australia for this category, Mr Light-bourne said.
Invivo's main markets are Australia, Britain, Japan, China,
New Zealand and Canada at the moment.
''We sell in about 13 countries and focus on these markets,''
Mr Lightbourne said.
One of its most enthusiastic export markets is Japan, where
both founders have been actively promoting the brand.
''Invivo has been the fastest-growing New Zealand wine in
Japan over the past 12 months,'' Mr Lightbourne said.
With 10% to 15% of sales allocated to marketing, the founders
give distributors marketing funds, have local PR agents and
promote in-store themselves.
In Britain, in the first few years they had well-known
supermarket wine buyer Angela Mount as their brand
In New Zealand, restaurants are one of Invivo's strongest
''We're in around 350 to 400 retail and restaurant/bar
outlets in the country, including about 150 restaurants like
Prego, The Foodstore in the Viaduct and Britomart bar Tyler
St,'' Mr Lightbourne said.
He emphasises it is not all glamour.
''We've stayed on mates' couches in London. We are
intentionally not paying ourselves very well. We reinvest in
There are four shareholders, Zambesi and a Northland business
person having minority shareholdings, while the founders hold
the key ownership.
The pair have new product launches planned in 2013 and are
also talking to distributors in emerging markets such as
South America, Africa and Asia.
Invivo is expected to have a turnover of $4 million to $5
million next year and could be three or four times the size,
but the pair are cautious.
''We have to be careful about our growth, making sure it's
sustainable and not overproducing volumes as well as keeping
it profitable,'' Mr Lightbourne said.
He takes his marketing cues from brands outside wine, such as
Red Bull and Innocent Drinks in Britain, he says.
''We try to do our own thing, but the early guys - the Villa
Marias, Cloudy Bays - opened the door for us.''
• 255% growth in the past three years
• 24th in the Deloitte Fast 50
• Its low-alcohol wine has 30% fewer calories than regular
• $4m-$5m turnover next year