MEDITERRANEAN. Logistics are at the core of the wine market. Transport and logistics companies have had to adapt to many changes in the sector, particularly over the last two decades. These changes are due largely to consumption levels, which have fallen steadily in France over the last 50 years. In 1965, per capita consumption in France was 160 litres a year; today, it is just 43 litres (roughly one glass per person per day).
This reduction in consumption, combined with an overall shift towards the higher end of the market, has brought about a change in production and packaging methods. These days, wine is all about the bottle and the quality. Now that winegrowers' cooperatives and vineyard owners have the means to satisfy the demand from the market for bottled wine, logistics companies must ensure good storage and delivery conditions.
The formula for success is as follows: "Transport less, but transport better." Wine logistics have become something of a specialist trade. "It has actually become a new business in its own right," says Philippe Cahusac, director of Épigone, a recently incorporated wine storage company in Béziers, in the Hérault department, which is being marketed as a one-stop shop for wine logistics. "We take care of everything," explains Mr Cahusac. "That means storage, temperature and humidity control, order preparation, shipping, and handling tricky and burdensome customs documents. We remove that burden and responsibility from winegrowers so they have more time to focus on production, sales and communicating with customers."
À la carte services
This new logistics service obviously comes at an additional cost, but it adds value, especially for small wine producers who cannot afford the internal tools they need to get their wines on the shelves of the big supermarkets.
For example, these retailers demand traceability under EAN (European Article Numbering) 128 barcodes, which are the international standard for data exchange between producers and distributors. By complying with these traceability requirements and standards, logistics companies are enabling small wine producers to work as if they had the budgets of larger firms. Depending on their needs, and on the extent to which they wish to control or outsource their logistics, they can also get access to à la carte services. "Our customers realise that logistics are becoming increasingly technical, so it is in their interests to outsource it and get rid of what can be a heavy burden," says Mr Cahusac.
This is particularly true now that wine logistics specialists have added expertise that enables them to provide an integrated service. One example is a transportation business that evolves into a logistics operator, like Transports Raymondis de Rivesaltes, in the Pyrénées-Orientales department. For several years, Éric Nazon's company has offered a highly specialised storage and order preparation service through its Vinôtel warehouse system. "Compared with other wine storage companies, our strength lies in the fact that we go beyond logistics to provide an integrated transport and logistics service. That's what our customers want," says Mr Nazon.
"We take empty bottles to the producers, we transport the containers, we bring back the full bottles and we store them in optimum conditions, then we take the orders and ship the goods. This enables our customers to outsource all their transport and logistics activities to a single service provider."
"Transportation is an extension of the sales process"
The need for integrated logistics is even greater now that wine is becoming an international business, with trade patterns giving rise to a Mediterranean market. As managing partner of Mediterranean-wine importer Méditerranée & Co., Jean-Luc Etievent is well placed to comment on this change: "In 2010, 78% of our imports came from Spain or Italy. That's 4.7 million hectolitres - quite a lot really! "
Trading volumes continued to rise last year. In Spain, exports are the biggest growth sector in the wine industry - particularly Cava, of which exports increased by 28.4% in 2011, according to the
Spanish Wine Observatory (OeMv).
These figures highlight the crucial role of logistics in Spain, where the severity of the economic downturn is forcing companies to find ways of optimising delivery and keeping a lid on costs.
As the leading Spanish producer of wines of controlled origin,Torres is leading the way: "Once the wine has been bottled, we try to keep stocks concentrated in order to ensure as short a distance as possible between the distributors and end customers," explains a member of the logistics team at the group. "But we never forget the fundamental commitments behind the image and identity of the Torres group. Our aim is to cut CO² emissions by 30% over 10 years by transporting goods by rail rather than road, whether we're shipping to Madrid, Andalusia or another country in Europe - although it has to be said that rail options are still too limited. We believe dialogue with logistics operators is very important because a lot depends on delivery. Transportation is an extension of the sales process."
This fusion of logistics and products, making the service more transparent in the eyes of customers, will continue apace with the development of e-commerce. In the Sabadell warehouses of Spanish firm Navarro Logistica , workers are already preparing customised wine cases that clients (end consumers or distributors) have ordered on a merchant's website. In a similar vein, Épigone enables the recipient of its deliveries to track the products throughout the entire shipping process on its website. This is another example of traceability linked directly to the shift towards e-commerce. It is also a change that makes secure logistics even more important.
Lire l'ensemble de notre dossier sur la logistique des vins méditerranéens