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Truett-Hurst posts loss despite 35 percent revenue jump

  • Truett-Hurst CEO and co-founder Phil Hurst, chief financial officer Jim Bielenberg and partner and winemaker Virgina Lambrix stand by the vineyards at VML Winery in Healdsburg at on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. (PD FILE, 2013)

Despite strong growth in sales, Healdsburg wine company Truett-Hurst reported an annual loss Wednesday due to increased costs associated with its initial public stock offering.

Annual revenues grew 35 percent to $17.2 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, up from $12.7 million a year ago. The company expects rising sales to reach between $24 million and $28 million in 2014.

“We feel great,” CEO Phil Hurst said. “It was another big growth year for us, and we're really happy.”

The company sold 209,000 cases of wine in fiscal 2013, up from 187,000 cases the previous year.

It reported an annual loss of $621,000, compared to a profit of $26,000 the previous year.

“The loss is primarily due to one-time IPO-related costs,” Hurst said. “We would have actually turned a small profit again without some of those costs.”

Sales and marketing costs increased to $3.4 million, up from $2 million in the prior year. The company also spent $349,000 to acquire a 50 percent stake in The Wine Spies, a flash sales website.

Personnel costs increased by $500,000. The company made several senior level hires during that time, and it now employs about 25 full-time workers in Sonoma County, Hurst said. It plans to hire a handful of additional people in the current fiscal year.

“We're trying to do what we can to add to the labor pool here,” Hurst said.

Hurst attributes the sales gains to the company's innovations in packaging design, its investment in The Wine Spies and its new relationship with major distributor Southern Wines & Spirits.

“Southern identified Truett-Hurst as a leader in innovation, and they sought us out,” Hurst told investors in a conference call. “Quite an honor for us, to be honest.”

Last fall, Truett-Hurst launched a line of foil-wrapped wine bottles designed to help customers select wines for special occasions. That product helped boost the company's sales growth, Hurst said.

In October, Truett-Hurst will begin selling “California Square,” a line of wines packaged in square bottles that are designed to harken back to classic spirit bottles. A line of wines in paper bottles also will be released in October, Hurst said.

Its stock rose 9 percent Wednesday following the earnings announcement, closing at $5.57 a share on the Nasdaq.

Truett-Hurst went public in June, raising $14.1 million after expenses. Its stock was priced at $6 a share in the offering.

“It's been an incredible journey, and really the race is just beginning,” Hurst said in the conference call.

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