The ability to crunch and analyze trillions of points of data has transformed so many consumer-facing industries: retail, fitness, even groceries. So why, Cathy Huyghe wondered, had it not impacted an industry she (and many of us) loved dearly: wine?
“There were all these apps, all these websites, all these really powerful platforms where consumers were telling us, every moment of every day, what they think about wine, but they weren’t being accessed by wine companies in order to serve consumers better,” Huyghe tells Hypepotamus.
A journalist by trade, Huyghe covered wine and the business of the wine industry for Forbes and other publications. She authored a book called “Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass” and founded two media companies, 365daysofwine.com and Red White Boston. Huyghe got into the field after working in restaurants in California and France and studying at a French culinary school, as well obtaining a master’s degree in Journalism from Harvard University.
It’s safe to say that Huyghe knew the ins and outs and the who’s who of the wine industry. But in interviewing both winery owners and wine consumers, she saw a disconnect with what people wanted and what wineries thought they should be providing.
“That was seed of the idea because it was my responsibility as a journalist to know what was going on in that space,” she says.
Enter Enolytics, an Atlanta-based data analytics startup for the wine industry. In 2016, Huyghe linked up with a team of three data experts, all of whom had formerly worked in the healthcare space.
“If I’m the who of the industry — I know who to talk to, I know who has data, I know who might want data — then my data team is the how,” Huyghe says.
The startup gathers data either from an individual winery, some of whom have generations of data just sitting there, according to Huyghe, or third-party data partners. They anonymize the data and create a dashboard and report for a specific winery client or even a regional wine organization.
What data do these wineries want? Huyghe says it can be anything from geographic location of consumers, to the competitive set, to insights on pricing and what a consumer will pay for a certain wine.
Enolytics can even analyze what they call “sentiment,” from the words consumers use to describe a particular wine. They apply natural language processing algorithms to analyze those words.
“We’ve literally analyzed the words that consumers all over the world use to describe the wine they’re drinking, in any language,” Huyghe says. They’ve worked in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
In fact, the product has been so well-received in Spain that Huyghe recently established a subsidiary, Enolytics Spain, to better serve customers there. The Madrid office is staffed with an additional three people.
While the company has been growing steadily, the team is still nailing down precisely what their scalable offering looks like. While some clients just want a printout of their data report, others want an interactive dashboard with real-time data so they can iterate and make changes quickly.
While they’re still figuring it all out, Huyghe has been hesitant to take in outside funding.
“We’ve turned down funding opportunities, because this is really something new for the wine world,” she tells Hypepotamus. “We think it’s important to first build something that wine businesses are willing to buy, and we needed to understand first exactly what that is.”
In the meantime, they’re continuing to land clients across the world, as Huyghe believes that numbers, like wine, is a universal language.
“We can see the tipping point and we’re in it for the long haul,” she says. “We’re just so excited about how once we put it out there, people all around the world — from South Africa to Chile to Asia to New Zealand to Italy and France — have taken the idea and said, this is how it would be useful to us.”