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Could the Cape Fear Region Become the Beer and Wine Country of the South?

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It’s the thirty-second annual Business Week at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business--meaning dozens of prominent alumni and executives have descended upon the Port City, to share their knowledge of marketing, entrepreneurship and information technology. Each year, programming is tailored to reflect Cape Fear-specific business trends. And today’s trajectories point to “worthy cause marketing” and a rise in regional craft breweries and wine startups.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of students Tuesday morning, the husband-and-wife founders of Barefoot Wine revealed how their product rose to become the world’s top-selling bottle—through zero use of traditional marketing or advertising. The pair largely attributes this success to an early decision to partner Barefoot with the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving oceans and beaches. Larry Clark, Dean of the Cameron School of Business, says Wilmington’s start-ups are good candidates for this worthy cause-based—and low-cost--approach to marketing.

"It’s trying to understand your product, understand who your products may be, and how might you be able to align—like in the case of Barefoot Winery, what they did was, they went primarily with not-for-profits—that’s how they further differentiated themselves."

Clark adds that Wilmington entrepreneurs would be wise to gain insight into the wine business. In fact, he predicts that just eighteen months from now, craft breweries and wineries will be a local boon.

"What I’m seeing is a number of pieces that--fifteen years ago, in California, were starting to gain critical mass--in terms of the kinds of opportunities that are going to be here."

These factors, Clark says, include a young, adventurous demographic, a burgeoning restaurant scene--and successful start-ups such as Next Glass, a digital database linking consumers’ beverage taste preferences to more than twenty thousand beer and wine varietals.