Fast-growing premium wine and spirits sales fuel demand for freight forwarding specialists capable of meeting rising activity while maintaining exacting standards.
There's perhaps no segment within the world's bustling beverage sector expanding as fast as premium wine and spirits – a market growing by about 15% annually. As a result, demand has risen considerably for international transport and logistics specialists capable of delivering those expensive and fragile goods around the world while also assuring their quality won't suffer en route.
Yet despite this surging activity, the high product stakes, protective handling and demonstrated experience necessary to provide premium beverage logistics has limited qualified actors to a precious few.
"There are only five or six companies in the world that have managed to both establish a foothold and prove they can meet the tough expectations of this rather tight and closed milieu," explains Edouard Wollenweber, director general of AMC, a top global transport and logistics specialist in the sector, and leader in France and Spain. "The value and fragility of the products are part of the challenge, but so are the varying demands of clients. You need to personalize every shipment to the content and individual customer involved."
Complications in transporting the world's best wine, Champagne, cognac and other spirits are numerous and exacting. Shipments are frequently picked up at wineries or distilleries themselves – a time-consuming task if an order combines purchases from vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy, for example.
In addition to gentle handling those bottles, crates and barrels of fine beverages require, humidity and temperature must also be maintained at specified levels, and may vary in function of beverages involved. Other times, larger volumes of non-bottled wine necessitate use of vats or outsized containers for climate-controlled transport. Careful track and trace ability is also a must – as is absolute respect of specified delivery time.
That all adds up to door-to-door logistics by freight forwarders assuming responsibility for every precaution, protection and administrative detail along the way. Those service providers work with multimodal air, maritime and road transporters with established experience in handling such precious cargo. All processing work – including customs brokerage – is also provided, as is insurance coverage of goods whose value can represent hundreds and thousands of dollars per bottle.
Adaptability and responsiveness is another major segment requisite. Traditional clients in the U.S., Japan and Europe have been joined by newer buyers in China, Vietnam and Canada, whose tastes and demands can differ considerably.
"The typical U.S. client buys the best wines and mid-range cognacs, and wants the best possible transport and delivery service available. The typical Chinese customer will buy top-quality cognac, mid-range wines, and select the service provider offering the lowest costs," says Mr. Wollenweber.
"You also must be quick to react to changes on the production side, and establish yourself in countries like Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, whose wines are finding growing export demand," he notes.
In an effort to keep pace with rising activity in the sector, global freight forwarding Bolloré Logistics bought an equity stake in the Cognac-based AMC in December 2015. The acquisition aims to boost the companies' combined capacities in premium beverage handling to an even higher, wider level. It allows Bolloré Logistics to put its worldwide network and assets to the use of AMC's specialized service on behalf of an expanding list of individual and institutional and producers.
"It gives us the opportunity to work faster with more operational options and reach, while staying focused on the distinct demands and challenges of this market," Mr. Wollenweber says. "The qualitative of service provided remains the key to success, but these added strengths are vital to expand further in this very tight and competitive sector."