William Morton, a Glasgow-based beer and spirits wholesaler, bought Inverarity Vaults in 2010 and then snapped up Forth Wines in 2013.
The resulting company, Inverarity Morton, was left with 3,500 SKUs, a lot of duplication and a lot of non-exclusive wines.
It has now pared that down to 1,430 wines and has emerged as a composite wholesaler of beers, wines and spirits, but with wine at the forefront of its offering.
The wines come from every major wine region and most are exclusive, as it has ended its reliance on suppliers like Boutinot, Liberty, Armit and Hallgarten, who are now moving into Scotland and are competitors.
It now supplies 25% of the wine consumed in the Scottish on-trade, but it is also making inroads south of Hadrian’s Wall.
“At the moment 80% of our business is in Scotland, some indies and wholesalers, but mainly on-trade,” wine buyer Toby Sigouin told OLN. “We have 27 salespeople in Scotland, and three in England, but the plan is to expand that sales force in England. We have seen a lot of growth in England, partly due to the mergers and acquisitions.
“People find our offer interesting because they can have a level of exclusivity they can’t get with bigger rivals.
“It’s solely off-trade in England. One of the great advantages we have is that although we have a lot of UK agencies we never sell to supermarkets or multiples and we have no designs to do that. Where we work with regional wholesalers in England we can come to an agreement that if they want to list a certain number of wineries we can guarantee them some exclusivity, and get winemakers to promote the wines at events and at wine shops. We can be flexible and even do split cases if people want to add on fine wines.”
Inverarity Morton was rewarded for its efforts by winning Wholesaler of the Year at the Drinks Retailing Awards this month.
It now has a turnover of £75 million, selling 6 million bottles of wine and 7 million bottles of beer, spirits and soft drinks a year.
Sigouin said it is picking up more business in England as regional operators are reluctant to work with the huge suppliers that have emerged as a result of consolidation. “Some people see them as too big, they are cautious about giving them business and they have been going with us instead,” he said, adding that inverarity Morton can bolster its range by taking on agencies from wineries that want to be a more important part of a slightly smaller portfolio.
“A lot of producers are uneasy with being such a small part of such a large portfolio,” he said. “A producer wants to feel important within a range. With our size we can offer that.”
He added: “We are finding a lot of growth away from entry-level. The craft beer movement has really sparked people into realising they can really tell a story about wine too. That’s great for us, because our bread and butter is medium-sized, family-owned producers.”