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Growth in bulk wine shipping to slow, says JF Hillebrand boss

Published:  12 May, 2014

The momentum for shipping wine in bulk is slowing down, says the head of drinks logistics provider JF Hillebrand UK.

David Mawer, managing director of the firm, told that bulk wine shipping to the UK was "reasonably close to its peak" following strong growth in the last 10 years.

"It's beginning to plateau, the rate of growth is definitely slowing down," Mawer said, adding that there are now "less opportunities out there" given the changes already made in recent years.

He said the main growth took place in the mid 2000s, with "significant uplift" between 2008 and 2012. Mawer attributed the change to a number of factors including "very good availability of wine", "buyers in a strong position to negotiate", favourable exchange rates and environmental concerns.

Within Europe, Mawer maintains that the UK has seen the largest shift to bulk wine. Australian wines have led the charge, switching from shipping 80% in bottle in 2008, to currently moving 80% of its wine in bulk. "It's been a very rapid movement - which has presented challenges to the infrastructure required to keep up with that."

For Australia, "suddenly there was a much greater demand for 20 foot containers and equipment. Flexitanks need 20-ft containers, whereas bottles traditionally ship in 40 ft containers. And it's not just any old container - they need to be built and maintained to a higher standard to withstand the stress of 24,000 litres of bulk wine", Mawer said.  

Speaking to last month, Stephen Rannekleiv, author of Rabobank's latest Wine Quarterly Report, said the bulk market would be "interesting to watch" in the coming year. "We kind of started to see a bit of levelling off until 2013. Although it is a watershed moment for New World countries [as over half of wine is now shipped in bulk from New World countries], part of that was caused by Spain raising prices in 2013 for bulk wines. It saw a pretty substantial drop in bulk exports."

He agrees with Mawer that he "wouldn't be surprised" if bulk New World shipments started to plateau in 2014, or dropped back a little bit. 

However, some of the country's major bottling facilities believe UK packing is set to increase