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Bulk wine driven by price not green issues

Published:  24 April, 2014

Wine buyers who justify bulk shipping by citing the green argument are simply 'ticking boxes' when price is driving sales, say industry experts.

It is generally accepted that shipping wine in bulk minimises the environmental impact of transporting finished glass bottles as it is much lighter - allowing you to ship greater volume and lower mass.

But Ross Sleet, marketing director at Cape Legends and previously a consultant on the South African wine industry, said using the green argument to justify bulk wine shipping was a "red herring". Instead he said: "The raw facts dictate that economics drive this market."

More specifically, Sleet said that bulk prices are affected by what's happening in a few key regions. "The integrated global nature of the bulk wine business means that if France, and Languedoc in particular, has a good or bad harvest, then the rest of the world's bulk prices shift either way. Similarly, if South Africa and Chile in particular at the moment, have good or bad harvests, then the global prices shift."

Anya Robson, of wine broker Murphy Wine Company, echoed the sentiment, saying the buyers used the green argument as a "box ticking exercise", when cash savings were really driving bulk deals. Asked whether buyers' decisions to ship in bulk were influenced by environmental concerns she told "I don't believe a word of it. I think it's all about price. If bulk was more expensive [than bottled] they wouldn't do it."

According to logistics provider Trans Ocean's website, part of the Hillebrand group, bulk shipping often represents  "more than double the capacity of pre-packaged cargo". It adds that carbon emissions can be reduced by up to 50%, while there are "reductions of between 40-50% in Nitrogen Oxide and Sulphur Dioxide compared to pre-packed goods."

What's your view on bulk shipping of wine? Get in touch with Gemma McKenna by email, through commenting below or via Twitter on @harperswine. 

Check out our next issue, out May 2, to read our analysis on the latest bulk shipping trends. 

Go to Insights section for latest Bulk wine prices from Murphy Wine Company.