Binnen bij Delta Wines

Delta Wines

A look inside Delta Wines

From impressive wines for the connoisseur to wines you can get for a few euros in the supermarket. Joris Snelten, Ralph Zopfi and Ernst-Jan Koziolek are standing in the middle of some 11 million bottles, which will be delivered to customers in the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic within the next six weeks. There are certainly ambitious plans for the future, both within and beyond those borders, and they are being realized at an accelerated pace in cooperation with Navitas Capital.

Every month, Delta Wines receives about a hundred new wines from producers who are hoping that Delta Wines will include them in its range. In the past, when the company was founded in 1985, this was very different. Back then, the founders went out to find the most beautiful wines. Those were marketed with the confidence that consumers could appreciate the taste of Delta Wines. "We became big because of our generalist approach," says Joris, CEO of the company. It's Tuesday morning and Ernst-Jan is visiting two board members of market leader Delta Wines. The generalist approach is reflected in 4,800 different wine varieties, which are imported from 25 countries from 260 producers. From the distribution center, here in Waddinxveen, they are brought to supermarkets, wine stores, liquor stores and web shops. The market leadership gives Delta Wines an enormous competitive position. Joris: "Our prices would never have been this low if we did not have our size and volume. No specialist importer can compete with that." This is also the reason why Delta Wines has so many appealing customers.

Direct sales to consumers is not the business model, something that many competitors see differently. "We don't want to be our customers' supplier one time and competitor the next," says Ralph, Managing Director. "We want to act as a partner and give customers the feeling that they can rely on us, now and in the future. For customers who really choose us, we will go through fire. We invest in marketing budgets, ensure better prices, provide them with interesting market information and give them more attention, sometimes by hiring an entire team dedicated to one customer." The company is also happy to assist 'triple A customers'. Take the catering wholesalers who got into trouble because of Corona. Joris: "We froze their payment balance and remained open for new business. That way the risks are balanced and at the same time we were able to do a lot for the customers who were struggling."

From two sides

Delta Wines is the pivot between the wine producers and the retail parties, such as the hotel and catering industry, liquor stores and retail. Ralph: "Partners are important to us. So when the peso reached a low point, we paid our Argentine producer's bill in advance so that he could produce again. Of course we are also businesslike and try to find good solutions, even if things are 'a bit' difficult. And not everyone is eligible for such special treatment." Joris: "A good collaboration is like a pair of scales; it requires balance and stability on both sides. We make an effort to provide them with market information; we inform them of promotions and purchasing figures, and thanks to our large scale and the many channels where we operate, we can make predictions of trends. But if we advise a wine producer several times that they need to go in a certain direction with their wines, because consumers are asking for it, and they don't do anything about it, in some cases we decide to part ways."

The wine producer who can't say goodbye to classic, dark red French wines full of tannins with old-fashioned packaging is advised by Delta Wines to innovate. "Consumer tastes are changing," says Joris. "Our strategy has changed in that respect compared to the 1980s. Back then we had a push strategy: we were passionate about a wine and offered it at the most competitive price. That strategy worked well; it made us big. Now we look much more at what the consumer wants. They drink the aforementioned tannic wines a lot less and nowadays they prefer fruity, supple white wines or rosés that are easy to drink on the terrace. We're going along with that and we're doing it together with our partners."

Focus more on data, which is relevant to a specific customer

Big data

The gentlemen have now left the distribution room and see empty wine glasses here and there. "Those hundred samples have to be tasted," jokes Ralph. "Are all the hundred wines that come in every month actually tasted?", Ernst-Jan wonders. "Absolutely", is the answer. Delta Wines employees are always looking for new wines that customers can score with. In the coming years, Delta Wines wants to focus even more on consumer demand. Market information is already available, but for now it is largely based on gut feeling and is used in a fragmented way. Joris: "It's great to see Navitas actively thinking along with us and using their network to help us realize our growth ambitions. We will soon be sitting down with Big Data Republic (another company in which Navitas participates, ed.) to see what they can do for us in that area. We envision a dashboard that can be used for each customer. We segment on a very specific level, including customer and taste types. The dashboard is automatically filled with data that is relevant to that specific client. Each week, a client automatically receives market information that he can use for his purchasing and sales strategy. Then we can add even more value. That's also going to be our strength in the future."

Healthy frugality

The gentlemen have the conviction that companies that grab too much margin and add too little value in return should be worried. Joris: "There will only be more 'disruption', partly because of blurred borders and far-reaching transparency." Sharp prices will become more important and that will also keep the management on its toes. Ralph: "We like a healthy frugality. Every cent that goes out is questioned. That one subscription, that trip to a trade fair and a dinner with the staff; we always keep in mind what the essence is and ask ourselves whether costs contribute to that. For us, money is a tool to get the most out of the company. We don't make much margin per bottle sold, but we do sell a lot and do it very efficiently. That's how we make sure there is money left over at the bottom of the line."

Partnership expressed in the symbolism of wine

Ralph and Joris on the wine that Delta Wines symbolizes in the future:
"That should be an innovative and sustainable wine, focused on the future. A wine that the press writes about and that several customers actively approach us for. The wine that perfectly embodies these characteristics comes from the Italian Cantina Goccia and is filled in the Frugal Paper Bottle, a bottle made of 94 percent recycled cardboard. We recently sold this special wine packaging to Marqt and caused quite a stir."

Ralph on the wine that symbolizes his partnership with Joris:
"With Joris I have been working together for a long time and every year is unique. That's why I would pair the Grosses Gewachs - the German Grand Cru - Aulerde Riesling from Weingut Wittmann with him. Every year this wine has a different taste and you can enjoy it for a long time. Riesling is Joris' favorite grape. Moreover, it is a complex grape, by which I mean that you can go in any direction with this grape; it has many hidden characteristics."

Joris on the wine that symbolizes his partnership with Ralph:
"Ralph cannot be captured in one wine. So it would rather be a wine menu, with a white wine in a transparent bottle. Ralph is, after all, crystal clear. But also a red wine with powerful tannins, because he can come across as sturdy. And then also a fresh, tight and beautiful Chablis from La Chablisienne. A wine that we regularly open with the management team at the end of a beautiful day. This wine embodies the fun and also the humor with which we work together."

In one of the rooms of the office, dozens of wines are displayed. Ernst-Jan's gaze is drawn to a pair of special ones with an artistic label. "Our collaboration with wine producer Badet Clément," Ralph explains. "Wine importer Theo Kalkdijk, Radio DJ Gerard Ekdom and neo pop artist Selwyn Senatori came up with these Rock 'n Rolle wines. We thought the concept and the accompanying labels were so incredibly cool that we started talking to them. It's the first wine of which we became one of the shareholders." And it wasn't the last; later Delta Wines became a shareholder of No House Wine, for which Joris and Ralph entered into a collaboration with Henk-Jan Beltman of Tony's Chocolonely. With No House Wine, houses are built in South Africa for AIDS orphans and displaced families; the counter now stands at 77 houses. Delta Wines is investigating with one of the largest online suppliers how the cooperation can be intensified and there are plans to get wine exclusively on the wine lists of some large Dutch hotel and catering chains. "However, always in cooperation with our chain partner, because we do not work directly with hotel and catering entrepreneurs either. Thanks to a future fulfilment dropshipping solution we want to unburden our customers as much as possible. We arrange everything, they invoice." International ambitions are also grand. Indeed, it is one of the reasons that the management sought a private equity party. Borders are fading, so clients of Delta Wines are also increasingly active outside the Netherlands. Joris: "We find it important to follow our customers. And we will also become even more relevant to our producers if we do not only have collaborations and sales markets in the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic, but also beyond. This will allow us to better negotiate purchasing conditions, which in turn will benefit our customers."

We think it's important to follow our customers, even across borders

From the office, we take the stairs toward the tasting room. A slight disappointment in the photographer's eyes. "It's still mainly a very practical space, not that atmospheric", Joris agrees. That will change soon, we'll have to visit again. "We are creating a wine experience room in a pleasant setting, which invites you to enjoy a good glass of wine." Of course - under the guise of some wine snapshots - there has to be tasting too. And in the meantime, Joris, Ralph and Ernst-Jan exchange thoughts on Delta Wines' future plans. "Important to secure the dna of a growing and international company", notes Ernst-Jan. A relevant issue that also concerns Joris and Ralph. Joris: "The propagation of our dna and our core values has to come from the management, every day. The shareholders are loyal and have often been connected to our organization for a long time. This strengthens the family feeling. This is precisely why it is so important to use people and resources as well as partners sparingly. So that that dna also stays ín the company and so that everyone knows it."

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