the park wine

Tackling the modern challenges of bulk wine distribution

12 November, 2021

Logistics companies within the global drinks industry have been battered by an unprecedented confluence of headwinds during the past 18 months.

It naturally began when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic back in March 2020. Billions of people were forced to stay at home, so they quickly switched from paying for services to buying hardware – home gym equipment, electronics, and so on.

Shipping companies had anticipated that the global economy would suffer a slowdown, so they stopped producing containers. Instead, they received an immense spike in demand, causing a global shipping crisis that is yet to be resolved. Throw in a chronic shortage of HGV drivers, workers regularly being forced to isolate amid “pingdemics”, port delays, the Suez Canal blockage, and issues caused by Brexit, and you have a perfect storm of problems for Europe’s largest wine packaging company.

The Park is based in Bristol in the west of England. It is a subsidiary of Accolade Wines, the Australian company that produces Hardys and Echo Falls, but it also imports wine in bulk from suppliers such as Treasury Wine Estates and Henkell Freixenet. The team bottles the wine and sends it to retailers and bars across the UK. It also moves around 6 million cases per year into the EU. It is gearing up for the Christmas trading period, its busiest time of year, while continuing to battle a variety of disruptions to the global supply chain.

General manager Richard Lloyd admits it is the most challenging period he has ever experienced. However, The Park has just achieved its strongest year of growth. It now accounts for one in four bottles of wine consumed in the UK, its European export business is booming, and it is packaging wine, spirits, alcohol-free drinks, and hard seltzers for eight other companies. 

The Park packaged 250 million bottles of wine over the past 12 months, and it is currently packing around 1 million bottles and 150,000 bags of wine daily.

“It has been a challenging year, but it’s been a year that’s enabled businesses with the right foundations to flourish and grow,” says Lloyd.

The company’s scale gives it an advantage in the current climate, according to Lloyd, which has allowed it to emerge relatively unscathed. “We’ve got a critical mass of volume now, with the Accolade brands and the other brands, and we can therefore ensure that where there are challenges with shipping, we’re at the front of the queue,” he says. “Our supply chain model can help other businesses as well, so we’re becoming a bit of a consolidation centre for the UK wine industry.” 

Despite the strong growth, the shipping crisis has caused problems for The Park. “You’ve got this huge demand, and at the moment it’s just all out of kilter,” says Lloyd. “Shipping is about moving a container full of something, but then it’s about moving the empty container back to the right part of the world. The global shipping lines have just got themselves out of balance with where the containers need to be, and there aren’t enough containers at the moment. Global shipping will cause us trouble for another three to six months.”

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