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UK bulk wine bottling set to increase

Published:  02 May, 2014

Four out of 10 bottles of wine in the UK are shipped in bulk and packaged here - but industry insiders say that figure is rising.

Karen Wilson, wine director and owner at Kingsland Wine & Spirits in Manchester told Harpers that as much as 40% of wine available in the UK is packed domestically, which she believes could grow to as much as 60%. "There's still a long way to go," she said, "and there's certainly capacity in the UK to handle that growth."

"Price is obviously important - it's always going to be a consideration - but I also think there's a lot more confidence in UK packing than ever before." Wilson highlighted quality standards and traceability as more important and much improved in the past 15 years.

Bottling wineBottling wineFour in 10 bottles of wine drunk in the UK currently shipped in bulk and packaged here, but experts believe there is room for more growth.

Stephen Rannekleiv, author of Rabobank's latest Wine Quarterly report which focused heavily on bulk wine shipping, described the UK as "probably one of the most aggressive leaders" in the shift to buying bulk. He said this was driven by retailers' focus on building their own brands and cost savings, and was not restricted to own or exclusive labels either, as branded firms are increasingly getting in on the act.

Anya Robson of wine broker Murphy Wine Company predicted growth will continue thanks to the UK's slim margins: "People like supermarkets have to continue to find ways to cut costs and shipping in bulk is one of them. The pressure is to continue increasing the percentage of wine shipped in bulk."

Robson added that current figures on what the UK is shipping in bulk are "lower than they really are", as some major players ship in bulk to other European countries to be packed for all of Europe.

The UK is also opening up as a hub for bottling in bulk for export, with Wilson saying that it now sells a large quantity of wine to Scandinavia.

Mark Lansley, managing director of Broadland Wineries in Norfolk said many retailers don't fully grasp the UK's bottling capabilities. He is still "surprised" that certain New World wines are packed in continental Europe, despite the UK being the lower-cost option. "Some retailers seem to think UK bottlers cannot perform certain European wine handling practices, but I know Broadland Wineries can and I suspect the other UK bottlers can too."

For more on the trends within bulk wine, read our analysis UK leads shift to bulk wine buying from this month's magazine.