Raise your glass to a good cause

Being located along South Australia’s Limestone Coast, the vineyards of winemaker The Hidden Sea were once covered by a vast ocean and home to a thriving marine ecosystem. “Ancient mineralised relics, including an extraordinary 26 million-year-old whale fossil, and an extensive museum of marine life, now lay buried beneath the alluvial soils of this World Heritage wine region,” the venture’s co-founder, Justin Moran, says.

This marine heritage is one of the key factors that drove Justin and fellow co-founder Richie Vandenberg to launch The Hidden Sea with a very specific mission – to remove plastic from the oceans.

Richie and I are not only good friends, but we also share very similar values and the drive that our business should have a higher purpose,” Justin says. “So, yes, The Hidden Sea is a commercial business, and we need to make a profit, but a profit from work that benefits humanity.”

Although best known for a ten-year career in the AFL with Hawthorn – he captained the club from 2005 to 2007 – Richie grew up amongst the vineyards and has over 12 years’ experience as a grower, and more than 25 years’ association with the wine industry through his family enterprise. Serial entrepreneur Justin has successfully built and sold businesses in the retail, restaurant, nightclub, FMCG, entertainment and technology sectors. “Our wines are soft and round, approachable and true to variety,” Richie enthuses. “We make wines for people that care, so when someone buys our wine, they’re not just satisfying their own immediate needs but also contributing to something much larger than themselves, and our wines must therefore reflect this trust.” The origin of the ‘terroir’ on which the wines age grown is celebrated through the depiction of the ancient fossil on the labels of the Hidden Sea range.

“Of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since its invention in the 1930s, only nine per cent has ever been recycled.”

The pair believe that consumers are looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. “We enable them to achieve this through the simple purchase of wine,” Richie explains. “For every bottle sold, we remove 10 plastic bottles from our oceans and recycle them through our partner, ReSea Project.” Every collection the business makes is audited and traced through an on-bottle QR code system. The ReSea project supports coastal communities, with local fishermen supplementing their income by removing plastic from rivers and the ocean, and in so doing improving their earning potential from their primary role by helping marine life flourish in a plastic-free environment.

“Since the 1 July 2020, we have removed and recycled over 1.2 million single-use plastic bottles from our world’s oceans,” Justin says, adding that that figure equates to 21,000 kilograms of plastic being removed. “What we are proud of at The Hidden Sea is that this result is not a percentage, or case sales, or profit – it’s a tangible impact on our ocean that is quantifiable.”

Justin and Richie have a specific long-term goal for the business. By 2030 they aim – with the help of their customers, market partners and retailers – to remove a billion plastic bottles from the oceans and recycle them.

Ultimately, Justin says that industry around the world needs to build a circular economy for plastics, so that plastic bottles and packaging is constantly recycled and reused, rather than being discarded and going to landfill. “Of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since its invention in the 1930s, only nine per cent has ever been recycled,” Justin laments. “This alarming statistic means that every human now consumes enough plastic each week to make a credit card through their normal diet, according to research by the WWF.”

This story first appeared in issue 32 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine