Bulk wine sales are an ever-growing trend among some very unexpected companies. Is your winery ready?
Experienced winemakers know how challenging the industry can be. There’s no concept of simply shutting out the world in order to focus on running a vineyard and creating the perfect blend when there’s business to attend to – the all-important business of marketing and selling the finished product.
Typically, this requires entrepreneurs to get personally involved, making trips to stores, wine shops, restaurants, and distributors in an effort to put their wine in people’s shopping carts and glasses. The quest to gain traction, build the client base, and grow can seem never-ending. With all of this going on, it can be challenging to find time to refine and perfect current products, let alone develop new ones. How can a wine brand put their growth into hyperdrive, adding to their bottom line so that they can expand?
One way to accelerate the process is by selling in bulk.
What Are Bulk Wine Sales?
When a winery sells in bulk, it provides a large amount of product to clients who will sell it under a different brand entirely. The wine is typically shipped in large flexitanks, but wineries sometimes also offer bottling and labeling at an additional cost as part of their “custom crush” service to clients who wish to create custom blends under their own private label.
Bulk wine sales offer unique benefits to both the seller and the buyer. It allows the manufacturer to create and sell off large amounts of product without the muss and fuss of individually bottling and shipping it. Bulk sales also allow wineries to sell a large amount of wine to one customer, rather than hopping around and searching out a multitude of customers to purchase it.
For buyers, bulk sales allow the opportunity for individuals and companies who don’t specialize in the wine business to get in on the game and dabble in creating their own wine brand. Purchasing in bulk also allows them to offer their product at a more competitive price point than similar products offered by mainstream brands.
Controversial But Trendy
Bulk wine sales remain controversial, with some suggesting that wine sold in bulk is of a lower-quality that’s not fit to be sold under the manufacturer’s brand. This isn’t typically the case, however. Many wineries sell their overstocked product or use this method to offload perfectly good orders that customers failed to pay for. Even in cases when a winery manufactures a certain amount of product specifically for bulk sales, the difference between that product and wines made for its own brand are insignificant.
While selling in bulk may not fit the romantic ideal of bottling a product with the idea of putting one’s own label on it and selling it as a labor of love, selling in bulk is still a romantic concept in that it enables others to achieve their winemaking dreams.
In some cases, this means small “virtual wineries” – individuals who wish to start a winery, but who lack the funds or desire to own a vineyard and the necessary processing facility. Some bulk wine buyers are wine shops who wish to offer a custom brand to their customers at a more cost-effective price. Restaurants are also frequently bulk wine buyers, as their customers enjoy purchasing a bottle marketed by their favorite place to eat pasta or enjoy a pizza.
Another growing trend in the bulk wine market? Bars and restaurants offering a selection of wines on keg and tap. Customers can cozy up to the bar and watch their bartender draw a luscious glass of wine fresh from the tap. This eliminates concerns about poor quality or corked wine from bottle to bottle. The experience is also unique and enjoyable; customers used to having beer on draft delight in having a glass of wine poured in the same manner.
Play in the Big Leagues
The most exciting aspect of entering the world of bulk sales is that it enables wineries to work with extremely large clients who are interested in offering their own private label brands. If a winery has the capacity to keep up with production, these clients can offer an effective way to skyrocket sales.
What sort of large companies have gone into the private label business? Tesco, for one. In 2000, it introduced its Finest private label – one that has garnered praise from wine critic David Williams. Their Pessac Léognan from Château Smith-Haut Lafite in Bordeaux and champagne from Chanoine Frères are standouts. The Adsa and Sainsbury’s chains also had excellent selections.
Another unexpected source of high-quality, private label wine? In 2003, department store super chain Target started selling boxed wine under their Wine Cube brand. Purchased from Trinchero Family Estates in Napa, Wine Cube wines include an offering of chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, and pinot grigio. Each three-liter box contains the equivalent of about four bottles each and comes at a price that’s well below purchasing four individual bottles of good-quality wine.
Boxed AND bulk? That’s the sound of Target thumbing their nose at the naysayers.
Online retailer Amazon has also entered into the private label game. In 2016, they announced a lineup of private label grocery products. This is great news for companies selling their products to the company, as a research study by Carbonview revealed that among 1,012 consumers, 97% shop at Amazon occasionally and 74% shop there multiple times each month. As for the full variety of private label possibilities for Amazon, Carbonview senior vice president Richard Ratcliff indicates that the sky’s the limit. “Anything that is shelf-stable is fair game now,” he said. While Amazon hasn’t unveiled its own wine brand yet, imagine the possibilities!
To truly grow a wine company and add to the bottom line, selling in bulk is a direction worth considering. While selling excess wine or unfulfilled orders will help make money and reduce waste, that will be a one-off, transactional way to make extra money. Instead, dedicating production facilities to creating bulk wine will enable a winery to work with larger clients – the best way to generate sales and success.