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Top 50 Drinks Wholesalers

Published:  19 May, 2017

Introducing our Top 50 Drinks Wholesalers list, comprising the most influential and innovative businesses shaping today's wholesaling landscape in the UK.

Drinks wholesalers come in every shape and size, from national giants and dedicated regional suppliers to independent merchants and specialists, each with its different reach or niche in the business of on-trade supply.

What they all share, though, is the ability to influence and impact on both the quality of the drinks offer across the nation’s hotel, restaurant, bar and pub sectors, plus the knowledge, professionalism and enthusiasm with which these drinks are served.

Companies both big and small – if quality-driven – can thus have a significant impact on the interest and breadth of the wines, beers, spirits and soft drinks that we all consume. And there are a wealth of quality operators out there, with the bar being raised all the time.

Which is why compiling a list a list of the Top 50 Influencers in the drinks wholesaling world is such a fascinating but difficult task. However, taking in the quality and interest of the portfolio, geographical reach, service and support, reputation, plus the establishments typically supplied, we’ve drawn up our list featuring 50 of the best. Do let us know if you agree… 

1 CONVIVIALITY PLC

With a series of acquisitions and mergers bringing together the might and reach of both Matthew Clark and Bibendum under the banner of Conviviality Direct, not to mention a string of other supply and retail companies under its far-reaching umbrella, Conviviality PLC has a combined portfolio and market penetration the like of which has never been seen on the UK wholesaling scene.

CEO Diana Hunter’s stated aim is to be a part of and help inform and drive every style of drinking occasion across the UK’s multiple channels, from high end fine dining to a cheerful bottle to consume at home. And, with the combined Group able to access some 2,500 SKUs of wine, 1,000 lagers and beers and 2,500 spirits, Conviviality Direct already serves some 23,000 outlets across the country. Clearly a force to be reckoned with.

2 ENOTRIA&COE (incorporating Great Western Wine)

Under the direction of CEO and experienced drinks trade hand Troy Christensen, and bringing together a long track record of being a premium supplier to the on-trade with the more recent strengthening of the spirits portfolio and expertise via the acquisition of Coe Vintners, Enotria & Coe has been reassessing its role in a changing drinks landscape.

As a full-service wine and spirits company claiming to carry the most comprehensive portfolio of drinks in the UK, London-based Enotria & Coe has its eye firmly on the premium ground, seeking to grow its already impressive reach by upping the ante and building value back into the hard-pressed drinks market.

3 LWC DRINKS

Based in the south, composite wholesaler LWC Drinks has an extensive reach around the British Isles, confirming its position as the UK’s largest independent drinks wholesaler. It’s a pretty remarkable achievement for a company that was founded as recently as 1979, with the last 40 years seeing LWC grow its portfolio to more than 7,000 wines, beers, spirits and softs, to a position today where it serves more than 7,000 on-trade customers. A countrywide network of depots allows this big player to efficiently reach a broad mix of restaurants, bars, hotels, event spaces and festivals up and down Britain, with affable wine director Shaun Healy its well-known face in the trade.

4 LIBERTY WINES   

Another company that began life in 1979, under the direction of ex-barman and former Enotria employee David Gleave MW. What has always marked Liberty out is the dedication to and quality of its wine portfolio, bringing together a global selection of quality-honed producers, backed by some of the best service in the business, attracting and keeping the loyalty of buyers in the on-trade and independent sectors alike. A great balance of enticing and interesting wines with the size to spread that message of quality far and wide.

5 ALLIANCE WINE

Scottish-based with a strong foothold in London, Alliance is one of those innovative (and growing) companies that has managed to spread its distribution beyond just the UK, with an excellent list of individual and originally sourced wines that it is now also exporting to other territories. Additional facets, such as its own winemaking ventures, an emphasis on green principles and much else, add up to it being one of the most innovative companies of its size.

6 HILLS PROSPECT

This Essex-based company, which is the largest independent drinks wholesaler across London and the south east, received a boost in 2009 when Hills Wholesale merged with Prospect Distributors. Since then, under the steady vision of director Trevor Bowers and the team, Hills Prospect continues to grow, with its delivery wagons clocking up some 560,000 miles a year, bringing 3,350 lines of fine and everyday wines, plus a strong mix of beers and premium spirits, to accounts stretching from Kent and Surrey all the way up to Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, by way of London.

7 INVERARITY MORTON

A composite wholesaler with a growing emphasis on innovation, bringing a 2,000-strong mix of premium and fine wines, along with funkier own-label and sole-agency brands, to market in Scotland and, increasingly, south of the border in the UK. With 25% of wine drunk in Scotland’s on-trade supplied by Inverarity Morton, along with a healthy side order of craft beers, premium and artisanal spirits, the company buys much direct from source and aims high.

8 BERKMANN WINE CELLARS

A stalwart on the wine scene since its founding in 1964 by Joseph Berkmann, the company is now directed by Rupert Berkmann, with Alex Hunt MW heading up the purchasing. It remains a favourite with sommeliers and on-trade buyers around the UK. Not that Berkmann has stood still – far from it. Whether championing California wines or continuing to rationalise and invigorate its portfolio in response to changing times, a “steady as she goes” philosophy underpins a projected £66.5m turnover in 2017.

9 HT WHITE

Describing itself as offering “national company pricing with local company service”, Eastbourne headquartered HT White is an exemplary, fourth-generation regional wholesaler, now run by managing director Chris Lees, with a reach that takes in hotel and restaurant groups, plus independent operators, throughout East and West Sussex, Kent and parts of Surrey. Leading on wines, with a global portfolio of on-trade exclusives, from high-end Bordeaux to niche boutique producers, the company also offers draft and craft beers, premium and artisanal sprits.

10 HB CLARK

As one of the largest independent wholesalers in the business, HB Clark is rooted in its brewing background in Wakefield, but has grown to deliver an extensive mix of beers, soft drinks and an increasingly strong selection of premium wines from around the globe. With 11 depots dotted around the northern half of England, HB Clark is a major regional player on the north and midlands on-trade scene.

11 ST AUSTELL BREWERY

A rather good independent brewery with a wholesale arm attached, St Austell has been busy growing its reach, delivering quality wines, beers and spirits to hotels, restaurants and pubs throughout the West Country, where it is a leading regional force.

12 HAMMONDS OF KNUTSFORD

A family business since 1960, Hammonds became a PLC in 2000 to reflect its growing size and status, selling some 2,500 lines of quality wines, beers and spirits into the on-trade, with a stronghold in the north but a national reach, and 99% of that portfolio available on single-bottle order.

13 MORGENROT

With a strong nod to craft beers and wines in its portfolio, Morgenrot supplies direct to its heartlands of Manchester, Yorkshire and the north west, working with other independent regional wholesalers to reach much of the rest of the country.

14 LES CAVES DE PYRENE

Focusing on its image as an importer and supplier of niche, off-piste and natural wines, Les Caves de Pyrene has grown to an impressively influential size, with sales director Doug Wregg doing much to influence the inclusion of such wines on lists in London and beyond.

15 BOUTINOT

An ever-innovative company, going the whole hog from winemaking to wine importing to wine supply, folding some 150 agencies into the mix. A seriously quality-focused operator and a popular choice with the UK on-trade.

16 LANCHESTER WINES

Independent, family-owned, with a big focus on sustainability and more than 3,000 lines in its portfolio, this County Durham-based company prides itself on offering a quality-driven portfolio from house level to the very top wines.

17 WINE IMPORTERS

Representing some of the biggest family producer names in wine, Wine Importers provides a high-end selection of estates to restaurants and hotels in Scotland, where it has been a leading supplier for 40 years.

18 TANNERS WINE MERCHANTS

Another multi-faceted and family-run business, anchored by seven retail branches across the border counties and into Wales. Tanners enjoys broad regional and national wholesale reach for its exemplary list.

19 CROWN CELLARS

The independently-run fine wine, craft beer and premium spirit division of Carlsberg has gone from strength to strength, supplying an impressive range, including own-label wines that play on the appeal of craft beer.

20 AMATHUS DRINKS (incorporating Bablake Wines)

Leading on spirits, The Amathus Group is known for its innovative products and distinct portfolio, with 3,000 lines topped up by three retail outlets in London.

21 ALIVINI

Folding in premium brands, high-end wines and fascinating finds from every corner of Italy and its islands, Alivini is the foremost specialist Italian wine distributor in the UK. 

22 FINE WINES DIRECT

Cardiff-based Fine Wines Direct is an exemplary importer and distributor, operating out of its own warehouse, but with a market for its portfolio that goes far beyond its South Wales locale.

23 TOLCHARDS

With a reach of more than 2,000 on-trade accounts buying into a portfolio of some 2,000 wines, beers and spirits, family-owned Tolchards is a respected and popular West Country supplier.

24 DAYLA (including James Pettit & Company)

With the Cooper family still at the helm, Buckinghamshire-based Dayla is a respected distributor of many major brands of soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits, also supplying dispensing technology.

25 EWGA WINES

Majoring on its close “from grape to glass” relationships with suppliers, and offering a 500-strong portfolio of well-recognised and more off-piste styles, EWGA Wines has carved out an impressive customer base from its Lancashire and Gloucestershire offices.

26 OXFORD WINE COMPANY 

Under the charismatic direction of owner Ted Sandbach, this leading independent has developed a following among quality restaurants and hotels radiating out from its Oxford stronghold.

27 HENNINGS WINE

Matt Hennings, as the leading independent merchant in Sussex, has had great success in steering his business down the wholesale route, with 65% of turnover accounted for by trade sales, in addition to four successful retail outlets.

28 MAJESTIC COMMERCIAL

Despite having to rein back on ambitious expansion plans, Majestic Commercial is still a company making its mark, freeing up the Majestic range and more for businesses up and down the country.

29 CAMBRIDGE WINE MERCHANTS

Hal Wilson and team run a quality operation from their stronghold in Cambridge, combining retail, franchised outlets and wine bars with a dedicated wholesale arm, allowing on-trade operators to access a great range of wines, artisanal spirits and craft beers.

30 AVERY’S

Long a respected and historical fixture on the Bristol scene, Avery’s remains a family-run business, supplying fine and premium wines well beyond its West Country base to accounts across the UK.

31 ROBINSONS WINES

Many brewers have a complementary wine offer, but Robinsons, with buyer Noel Reed at the forefront, has brought together an impressive selection of exclusive wines which it distributes beyond its own estates.

32 CHRISTOPHER PIPER WINES

Chris Piper and business partner Chris Earle have carved out a reputation beyond their Devon base as a supplier of quality wines, spirits and beers to an impressive selection of West Country hospitality outlets.

33 C&O WINES

An importer and supplier of exclusive wines based in Manchester, C&O Wines offers more than 50 family-owned wine estates, backing up this global selection with WSET-trained staff offering training and bespoke lists to fit a given establishment’s needs.

34 SOHO WINES

Run by brothers Peter and Kyri Sotiri, this compact but dynamic operation is well known by buyers across London’s quality dining scene, for both its quality-focused portfolio of wines and spirits and its ability to be fast and flexible with deliveries.

35 SHERIDAN COOPERS

Sussex-based Sheridan Coopers, run by Andy Wiseman, offers a portfolio of some 400 wines, including a good and growing English fizz selection, plus premium spirits and beers, for delivery across the south east, focusing on personal relationships with its accounts.

36 RODNEY DENSEM WINES (incorporating Telford Wines)

Operating out of Nantwich, RDW supplies a nationwide customer base with exclusive agency wines and own-brands, with a  focus on quality across its global portfolio.

37 BABLAKE WINES

With its origins in a butcher’s in Coventry some 80 years ago, Bablake has become a national-sized wholesaler, with depots in Coventry, Bristol and Gloucester, delivering to a catchment area that covers a third of the UK.

38 BON COEUR FINE WINES

James Goodhart founded Bon Coeur Fine Wines 21 years ago with a view to creating a business with the customer foremost in mind. Today its reach and stature has grown enormously, while still buying many wines direct and providing a thriving wholesale service.

39 BUTLERS CELLAR

As a fiercely independent business with just two shops, proprietor Henry Butler nonetheless punches well above his weight in its home city of Brighton and Hove, with the supply of interesting, original and always quality wines to many of the best on-trade outlets in the area.

40 NECTAR IMPORTS

Specialising in premium ciders, beers and spirits, with a healthy selection of wines completing the 3,000-strong portfolio, Nectar stays on the ball, refreshing 500 new products last year alone as part of its far-reaching list.

41 REGENCY WINES

With its heartland territories being in Devon and Somerset, Exeter-based Regency Wines deals solely with the on-trade, offering quality wines, along with training and support, for outlets that like to keep their relationships local.

42 TALKING WINES

Carrying wines and spirits from independent producers, a similar ethos runs through the business and those that Simon Thomson and Simon Thorpe at Talking Wines prefer to supply. 

43 LIBRA DRINKS

With a strong line in beers, ciders and bar-side supply, Nottingham-based Libra Drinks also carries a wide range of popular wine styles from around the globe.

44 MIDDLETON WHOLESALE

Northampton-based, family-owned Middleton Wholesale is a regionally-focused composite wholesaler distributing from a range of over 1,500 products, while also being an active member of the Society of Vintners, underpinning an expanded wine division and upping its quality wine portfolio.

45 SH JONES

With a ready supply base into the pub, hotel and restaurant trade around its Banbury HQ, SH Jones has been gradually expanding its reach with the acquisitions of Slurp and Stevens Garnier, all the time boosting its wholesale base.

46 STEEVENSON WINES

With father and son team Charles and Liam Steevenson at the helm, this Tavistock-based wholesaler focuses on high-quality and high-end finds from around the world, selling on into similarly wine-savvy restaurants and hotels in the south west.

47 VILLENEUVE WINES

With 2,000 fine wines and more than 150 malt whiskies in its portfolio, Villeneuve Wines operates out of its Peebles and Edinburgh shops, supplying a healthy slice of upmarket hotels and restaurants in its native Scotland.

48 SWALLOW DRINKS

As a leading supplier to the West Midlands, Swallow Drinks carries a broad range of premium branded beers and spirits, along with more eclectic and regional labels, plus a strong range of wines sourced though the Society of Vintners.

49 WILDFLOWER WINES

An independent, Scottish-based company offering a carefully selected portfolio of wines, along with support and training, including in-house food pairing and other trade-supporting events.

50 COCKBURN & CAMPBELL

The wine division of brewer Charles Wells, Cockburn & Campbell has a global list ranging from mainstream regions to an increasing number of good value finds from more off-piste and esoteric parts of the wine growing world.