A WINE wholesaler which supplies Michelin-starred restaurants including Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace, The Kitchin and Martin Wishart has unveiled plans to grow its business in the west of Scotland.
Bibendum Wine, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, is targeting restaurants serving the 85,000 Italian-Glaswegians.
The company already supplies a number of venues in the west, including Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond, the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre and the Ubiquitous Chip eatery on Glasgow’s Ashton Lane.
Now it plans to expand operations in the west, building on a three-year distribution deal signed last year with logistics firm Tradeteam, which has given Bibendum access to a depot in Cambuslang.
News of the expansion plan comes after Bibendum – which is also the distributor for Crystal Head vodka, the drink created by Hollywood veteran Dan Aykroyd – reported a 10 per cent rise in turnover north of the Border to £6.8 million in the year to 31 March. Sales in the UK as a whole grew by 4.5 per cent to £185m, according to accounts filed at Companies House, with pre-tax profits jumping by 25 per cent to £3.5m.
As well as supplying hotels and restaurants, Bibendum sells wines to independent bottle shops. Managing director Michael Saunders told Scotland on Sunday: “Since the demise of First Quench and Victoria Wine, the independent sector has really bloomed in the UK.
“I think that’s the future for our industry. The supermarkets have cornered the market with promotions on wine but they don’t offer the level of advice you can get in your local independent wine shop. If you know little or nothing about wine then looking at all the bottles on the supermarket shelves can be quite intimidating.”
But Saunders expressed his fears for the wine industry on the back of legislation to control problem drinking.
“The talk in the trade is that the Scottish Government’s minimum pricing law will be successfully challenged in the European courts,” he said.
“My concern over minimum pricing is that, no matter what level it is brought in at, say 50p a unit, it will rise and will start to affect wine sales over the medium-term.”
With a further rise in duty due in the spring, Saunders said it was time for governments north and south of the Border to look at education rather than legislation to tackle excessive drinking.
“We do it for drugs and for sex so why not for drink?” said Saunders. “Children see their parents drinking all the time yet we don’t do enough to educate them about the dangers of excessive drinking.”
Saunders admitted the wine sector in the UK was experiencing a tough time and said his firm had benefited from the collapse of rivals. The dominance of supermarkets and the smoking ban have reduced the number of people visiting pubs, increasing the pressure on drinks distributors.
In October, WaverleyTBS – the former wholesale business of Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) – collapsed into administration. Dutch brewer Heineken, which teamed up with Danish rival Carlsberg to break up S&N in 2008, sold WaverleyTBS in 2010 to private equity group Manfield, whose partners include former S&N UK managing director Jeremy Blood.