The wine industry’s focus on the global bulk wine market has never been more intense as retailers, importers, distributors and suppliers look to source the best quality and best value wines for their markets. But what are the behind the scenes trends that are driving and dictating the international bulk wine market? We talk to Otilia Romero de Condés, chief executive of the World Bulk Wine Exhibition about how she sees the bulk wine market and what to expect at WBWE 2023 in Amsterdam in November.
The World Bulk Wine Exhibition 2023 takes place in Amsterdam between November 20-21. You can find out more about how to exhibit or attend here.
What are your plans for the WBWE in 2023?
In 2023 we are launching a new motto which I believe reflects the spirit of this new WBWE phase: Where Wine Brands Are Born.
The WBWE is a unique event in the wine fair ecosystem because it is the heart of the industry. What we have noticed over the years is that it is a place where professionals come with an open and creative mindset. The WBWE is the fair where wine brands are born and foundations are laid. Here we discuss the terms of what will become concrete brands which people will then buy and take home. This is where all the stories begin, and we love that sense of freedom our visitors enjoy at the WBWE.
The WBWE is intended for all professionals from the wine sector with an idea or who run their own business. It can be a well-established winery with many wine litres to sell, a small company or an entrepreneur with an idea for a private label, a purchasing manager from a supermarket, or a medium-sized non-alcoholic beverage producer. Over the last few years, we have been focusing on attracting wineries that make quality wine, but do not want to bottle their entire production on-site. The WBWE is the place where everyone can find their ideal business partner.
Are there any key themes you want to promote and turn the spotlight on?
Here is a preview of some of the conference titles. We will reveal the names of the speakers in the coming weeks:
- Maintaining quality yet breaking away from conventional packaging
- Spain, quality in all shapes and sizes.
- No & Low, there is a market out there!
- Canada, doing business in the land of maple trees.
- China, what now?
As you can see, we’ll be dealing with the hot topics in the wine business today. The speakers will be of the highest level and there are several surprises for our regular attendees. We want the WBWE to be a different fair every year, while keeping our raison d’être intact: doing business.
Are there any key speakers lined up to take part?
Yes. Here are the first names to be confirmed:
- Amelia Dales from Packamama.
- Rob Malin from When in Rome.
- Andrew Ingham from Interpunkt.
- François Simard head manager of Station 22.
And there are many more names to be announced.
Is the role of bulk wine as part of a wine company’s sustainable strategy becoming more important?
Absolutely, and this is true from the point of view of the producer and winemaker as well as the importer. The other day I read a comment on LinkedIn saying: “New research suggests that beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are responsible for a third of the overall environmental impact of supermarket packaging”. The wine industry has a lot to do with that, and a lot of work ahead.
This same person also commented on the importance of educating the end consumer because efforts to design new, more sustainable packaging will be useless if consumers aren’t committed. We’ll be talking about all these things at the WBWE, because what is decided there has an important impact on what happens during the year.
Which are the key countries taking part in 2023?
This year we have some countries that are going to be particularly prominent – the US in particular.
Bulk wine was the category that increased the most in the US in 2022, with bulk wine imports into the United States soaring for the fourth year in a row, rising 10.2% to a record 4.88 million hectolitres – an all-time high. Bulk wine now accounts for 34% of US wine imports, generating some 420 million dollars in revenue. It serves a variety of purposes but interestingly, supplies are monopolised by just six countries, all of them on the American continent. Thus, are European countries, which tend to be much more focused on bottled sales and sparkling wines in the high-value US market, missing out on this opportunity?
Canada and Chile are once again the primary supplying countries in terms of volume. New Zealand has regained its leadership in terms of value. Purchases from Australia, South Africa and Argentina have skyrocketed.
Unlike the huge increase witnessed over recent years, in 2022, the UK largely marked the downturn in exports. After the substantial plunge in bottled wine exports, now almost 90% of the wine exported by the US to the UK is bulk wine.
The US accounts for 10% of global wine consumed and offers prices higher than many other markets.
How about countries in Europe?
When we look at Europe then we have to start with Spain – the world’s primary bulk wine-supplying country. In 2022, Spain’s bulk wine exports increased by €54m, its best figure since 2018, despite selling 1.42 million hl less. However, Spain’s exports declined by 11% in terms of volume, accounting for 11.54 million hl. The average price rose by 25%, shifting from €37 per hectolitre to €46/hl.
The turnover grew at a very good pace in 2022, yet it is still far from what was obtained in 2018 (i.e., €605m), when, at that time the average price for Spanish bulk wine reached €58/hl in global trade.
Bulk wine without any quality indication dominates Spain’s exports accounting for 70% of the overall volume, although it was varietal bulk wine which performed best.
Spain exported bulk wine to 102 different markets; though it should be noted that the top four destinations (all of them producing countries: France, Germany, Portugal, and Italy) represented 76% of the total. France has gained share as its number-one destination, whereas Italy has considerably declined versus a huge upsurge in exports to the UK and Morocco.
Spain is clearly the world’s leading bulk wine-supplying country with around one-third of the total commercialized on a global scale.
How do you see the Chinese wine market and how likely are Chinese buyers to attend WBWE?
China is back on the road and back on the international market and we are doing important work there to attract buyers. Our first foray into the Chinese market as a fair in 2019 was a success, then the pandemic hit and we had to slow down, but China is still a must-see country.
The current figures show that their imports have slowed down a lot, but in the case of a country like China that doesn’t mean we should stop betting on it. It still needs a lot of wine.
In fact, this slowdown in imports has a positive side for bulk: China no longer buys so much bottled wine because it is increasingly committed to launching its own brands, but those Chinese brands depend to a large extent on international wines. The challenge for quality wines is to win the hearts of Chinese entrepreneurs who want to create their own private label.
Another paradigm shift is that Chinese businessmen are no longer the one who come looking for lots of litres at low prices. They continue to buy a lot, but they are increasingly looking for higher quality, albeit at competitive prices. Wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile, and Eastern Europe are now being sold at competitive prices. They have great potential in this market.
What other trends are we going to find at WBWE 2023?
We will continue to advance the opportunities that the non-alcoholic wine business offers to bulk producers. This is a very important new category in recent years, driven by an increased concern for consumer well-being and a desire for moderation.
No-low wines offer countless opportunities for bulk producers that go far beyond the obvious solutions.
Another novelty of the WBWE will be the distillates, this year we will have representation of tequilas, as well as brandies, etc. Many importers who attend the fair work with large portfolios and come looking for other types of beverages to complete them. Those distillate companies that want to expand their business contacts and find new business ideas, have the best ally in the WBWE to achieve it.
- You can find out more about WBWE 2023 here.