As featured on www.thedrinksbusiness.com July 19th 2013
By Gabriel Savage
A UK-based contract bottler has capitalised on the demise of several major UK agencies by sourcing bulk wine and creating brands directly for retailers.
This year has seen Broadland Wineries in Norfolk recruit former Morrisons wine buyer Arabella Woodrow MW and ex-PLB director Peter Bisley to support this expansion within the wine business.
Explaining the move, Broadlands managing director Mark Lansley told the drinks business: ”We started thinking about it a couple of years ago when we tracked some of the agencies’ profitability and could see they were losing it.”
When the company’s largest bottling customer D&D International went into administration a year ago, Broadlands saw an opportunity to cut out what Lansley summarised as “long supply chains, delays and inefficiencies.”
“We’re talking directly to the retailers and the on-trade and have started doing market research ourselves,” he told db. “It’s actually been quite liberating.”
Highlighting a bulk wine market that has “doubled in the last five or six years,” Lansley remarked: “There are 1.3 billion bottles of wine drunk in the UK, of which about 33% is bought in bulk.”
As a result of direct conversations with retailers, the company has now begun to identify and react to market trends.
For example, Lansley noted: “If you want wines bottled in 18.7cl, companies often want you to bottle half a tank, or 12,000 litres minimum – that’s often nine months-plus worth of stock that tends to have a short shelf life.” In response to this issue, Broadlands promises to fulfill orders as small as 2,000 litres.
Under the supervision of Woodrow, the company has put together its own portfolio of brands through the establishment of joint ventures with New World wineries.
To-date these include Waipapa Bay, a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand; Compass Point, which incorporates wines from Australia, New Zealand, California and South Africa; and Cawston Crossing, a Chenin Blanc and Shiraz from South Africa.
Currently in the pipeline are an Argentine Malbec, Californian Zinfandel, South African Sauvignon Blanc and both a Moscato and Pinot Grigio from Australia.
Meanwhile new agency director Bisley is setting up a division of Old World wines bottled at source. Confirming that discussions are currently underway with potential partners in France, Spain and Italy, Lansley explained: “either we will represent them in the UK or we will have our brands bottled by them.”
Emphasising the company’s ability to deliver good quality at low cost, Lansley confirmed that Broadlands could offer wines for prices as low as £17 for a 6x75cl case, or £2.83 per bottle.
“We have the lowest cost route to market,” he claimed, noting the company’s proximity to Felixstowe, “the lowest cost UK port”, as well as the country’s main distribution network. In addition, Lawson noted: ”Our winery staff are very efficient, staff turnover is very low and we have a low operational cost base so we can invest in the liquid.”
Although Broadlands already offers a range of British-made wine with alcohol levels down to 8% abv, Lansley identified the low alcohol sector as a further growth opportunity.
Confirming that the UK's expanding 5.5% abv low alcohol category “is an area we will be doing more in,” he explained: “it plays to the strength of our company and our technology.”
A chemical engineer by training, Lansley is also keen to improve further the technical expertise offered by Broadlands. “There are a lot of myths in the wine trade that you should use a certain type of tank or a certain type of pump,” he remarked, “But if you look at the surface to volume ratios and diffusion, there’s a lot of bad information there.”
Stressing that “we are very much focused now on wine,” Lansley noted that the company has now cut back its perry, cider and cocktail production business. However, he pointed to Broadland’s rural Norfolk setting, saying: “We will be looking at products grown locally that we can make wines from.”
Despite the potential for elderflower wine, Lansley maintained: “Imported wine is the main growth opportunity for us at the moment.”
A more detailed look at the bulk wine market will appear in August’s issue of the drinks business.