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JF Hillebrand celebrates 175 years with leaps forward in sustainability and tech

Published:  22 July, 2019

JF Hillebrand is currently celebrating nearly two centuries of connecting wine and spirits with consumers, from its humble beginnings in Germany to one of the world’s largest logistics providers.

The beverage-focused company has come a long way in the past 175 years.

Its evolution began in 1844 in a small office in Mainz, Germany, where wine barrels were transported on carts and barges.

Over 100 years later, the introduction of sea containers to world shipping lanes enabled the business to expand into the new world, and is today one of the biggest operators of ocean freight globally.

As the business has grown, so too has its focus on sustainability.

CEO Cees van Gent said: “Celebrating the 175th anniversary is a momentous milestone for any business to achieve. It is also the perfect time to commit ourselves to accelerating our growth ambitions. The same dedication that has brought us to this day is exactly what will guide us in the future.

“Sustainability is high on the JF Hillebrand agenda. Our 2025 goal is to reduce CO2 emissions per container by 45% from 2008 base line levels, while evolving our product range to better suit both our customers and the environment. Meanwhile, we recently launched the myHillebrand app, allowing customers to track their cargo on its journey at each leg, giving them more visibility and control.”

On the graudal switch from road to rail, Bruno Cornaille, group head of sustainable development, recently told Harpers: “More than 70% of wine flexitanks imported by JF Hillebrand into the UK are collected by rail. So far we have removed the equivalent of 20,000 trucks from British roads – five million lorry miles – and we recycle flexitanks in Liverpool and Bristol. We just need the road for the last mile.”

Part of JF Hillebrand's strategy of working to the future is its continued investment in technology.

Taking cues from Uber and other B2C apps, the company’s MyHillebrand app provides real-time information with the aim of giving customers more flexibility and visibility into the supply chain.

This includes location tracking and temperature and humidity data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) during travel.

According to Pierre Corvisier, director of new services at the company, a single 20-foot container can easily cost upwards of £80,000 if it is damaged or lost in transit, hence why they intend to continue to invest in track and trace technology.

“Currently, the system provides real time temperature data for each leg of a product’s journey. Adding predictive alerts is the next step to helping customers make fully informed decisions when it comes to the conditions in which their products will travel,” Corvisier said.

Other recent developments include the appointment of Jeroen Visser as the group's chief financial officer.

He succeeds Thorsten Beer in the role and joins from family-owned retail company Blokker Holding, where he also held the position of group CFO.