February 15, 2022

Benelux’s biggest importer is turning challenges into opportunities

Senior Buyer Laurens Maas spoke to The Daily about being back at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022 and how Delta Wines has evolved over the past few years

The company, which was acquired by Navitas Capital last year, imports and distributes over 4,600 different wines from 246 suppliers, supplying a total of 85 million bottles to supermarkets, traditional retailers, wholesalers and the food service industry.

Mr Maas said: “It’s great to be back at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022 – seeing your international friends for the first time in three years. My last trade show was in 2019 so its a real ‘rendez-vous’. Obviously we’re really focused on French wines, but the international sections are really interesting as well, so we are also seeing some of our Italian and Portuguese partners as well.

Yesterday at the inauguration ceremony, the French Minister of Agriculture and Food referred to 2021 as a ‘black year’. What was your experience?
It wasn’t at all for us, because we were able to adapt to the market. We operate across several channels, so it was easy for us to switch between them. We also invested directly in the market to gain market share and secure our position which then helped us attract new partners and grow accordingly.

Have there been any broader repercussions on the market?
In terms of wine and harvests, 2021 was more challenging because prices are increasing. We mainly operated in the Dutch market which is a very price sensitive market, so the question is whether consumers in 2022 will accept this increase. Last year when we spent five months in lockdown, we lost a lot of turnover in Horeca – the food services industry including hotels, restaurants and cafés, which was quite challenging, so this year it remains to be seen whether these venues will stay open for 12 months. Therefore, this year is going to be very interesting for us I would say.

When you say you’ve invested in different channels, can you be more specific?
We’ve seen a significant increase in alcohol free, so we acquired a company specialized in alcohol free wines in 2019. That’s a growth market for us and we’ve been growing double digits in that segment. Just before Covid, we also set up a dedicated team for e-commerce, which is a completely different ball game. Importing wines is generally about making exclusivity agreements with geographical areas within countries, but with e-commerce and big players like vino.com that has several translated urls, there are no boundaries. That requires you to adapt and have discussions with your suppliers and clients. We rather embrace it rather than fight it. Because every challenge is an opportunity.