Barton leaves Phoenix to take First Cape to US

Barton is taking the First Cape brand to the states

Brand Phoenix co-founder Steve Barton is leaving the business to take its First Cape wine brand to the US.

Barton is licensing the First Cape brand and setting up his own business to build it in the US. He aims to focus on growing distribution in 10 US states over the next two years.

He leaves in September but remains a shareholder in Brand Phoenix, which will now be led by fellow co-founder and managing director Greg Wilkins, plus director Steve Rosser.

The company is currently recruiting for another director to strengthen its UK team.

Barton said the US development was a logical evolution for the brand, which includes the low-abv First Cape Light sub-brand.

“The US market is one of the most competitive in the world but ongoing per capita growth also makes the States one of the most exciting for progressive brands,” he added.

Wilkins said it would be “business as usual” for Brand Phoenix and First Cape in the UK following the shake-up, revealing that he would be adding a “strategically strong” brand to the portfolio next month.

“Brand Phoenix is UK-centred and always will be,” he told The Grocer, adding that the UK accounted for up to 80% of its business.

The company plans to roll out refreshed packaging, new varietals and new formats for the First Cape brand over the next six months.

First Cape started in 2002 as a joint UK/South African venture to help farmers and growers supply the UK.