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An article in the February 11 issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek caught my eye and got me thinking about another way of reducing freight costs.  Here is the idea.

Hardys became Britain’s best-selling Australian wine brand by selling wine for as little as $5 a bottle, despite the 37 percent surge in the home country’s currency since 2009.  To do that and earn a profit, Hardys changed their paradigm for shipping wine.  Accolade Wines, the producer of Hardys, came up with the idea of shipping the equivalent of 32,000 bottles of wine in a 24,000 liter plastic bag.  The company reduced shipping costs by $3 a case by moving the wine 10,000 miles to a bottling plant that is a two hour drive from London.  The bottling plant receives the shipping containers via truck each day.

Australia’s wine industry that generates the equivalent of $5.8 billion in annual sales, now ships more than half of its overseas shipments in bulk.  The wine makes the 40-day trip to Europe in plastic “bladders.”  Richard Lloyd, Accolade’s global logistics manufacturing director stated:  “We don’t ship glass around the world; we ship wine.”

The BusinessWeek article highlights that shipping in bottles can add 25 cents per bottle to the cost.  Shipping wine by the case fills a ship with containers of bottles.  A third of the volume is taken up with bottles and cartons.  While a 20-foot container can hold 9,000 liters of bottled wine, it can carry a 24,000-liter bladder at slightly higher cost.

While shipping freight in bulk is not new, it is not commonplace for certain commodities.  For low cost products, that typically move in bottles or cans (e.g. no name fruit juices or tomato sauce), “deferred packaging” may help reduce freight costs.

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