E-commerce of wine, the boom of 2020 in the data of the Italian bigs, who look to the future

Driven by the closures to restaurants imposed by the pandemic and by the desire of wine lovers not to renounce a good glass of wine even at home, the boom of wine e-commerce in Italy has been one of the phenomena accelerated by Covid. A phenomenon still limited in absolute values (Nomisma estimates talk about a total turnover of about 200 million euros), but important for several aspects. First of all, it represents an important channel for many small wineries focused on catering and that, due to strategy, structure, and size, do not want or are not able to access large-scale distribution, which, especially for the larger wineries and historically present in modern distribution, has been the real barrier to the crisis. Secondly, because more and more wine e-commerce portals are also communication tools, capable of connecting producers who want to make themselves known and consumers who are looking for something new, as well as training, with different proposals for tasting courses, wine culture and food matching. Third, because according to all the analysis and testimonials of the big players, many of those who started buying wine via the web for the first time, are continuing to do so, and this will be more and more important, with Italy on the right path to recover a gap compared to other countries in this sense, with many cases, from the US to the UK, online wine sales are worth more than 10% of the total, with peaks such as in China, where estimates range from 20% to 30%. And that this sector will have an important future, is also told by the investments magnetized by some of the most important realities of the sector, and their 2020 turnovers, as revealed by the data, collected by WineNews, on big players such as Tannico, Vino.com, Callmewine.com and Xtrawine, the so-called “pure players”, which put together a turnover of 82 million euros in 2020, with a growth of more than +80% on 2019, in addition to the peculiar experience of Winelivery, which focuses mainly on fast deliveries in major cities, and which came to 7.5 million euros, with a boom of +600%.

Tannico, which recorded in 2020 the entry into the capital of a beverage giant such as Campari Group (which invested 23.4 million euros, with a reserved capital increase for 49% of Tannico, with the possibility of rising to 100%, from 2025, based on certain conditions), saw its turnover reach 37.5 million euros, with a growth of +82% on 2019, thanks to 2.5 million bottles delivered, 400,000 orders shipped worldwide (+95%, mainly Uk, USA, Switzerland and France), with peaks of 7,500 orders handled in a single day.

WinePlatform, the b2b service launched in 2017 to support wineries on a technological and logistical level in the sale of their products to end customers, is also registering a vertiginous growth in volumes. The 120 wineries active on the platform – such as Donnafugata, Masi Agricola, Alois Lageder and Cantina Tramin, to name a few – have, in fact, seen both the number of customers served and orders managed more than quadruple in 2020, for a total of over 78,000 bottles sold. “It has been a challenging year but one of great consolidation for Tannico – says Marco Magnocavallo, CEO of Tannico – the Covid emergency has brought an acceleration of business that we expected to reach in 2021 with a huge share of new customers on their first purchase. It was also an important year for Tannico for two new projects that were launched and that opened our company to multichannel communication: the Tannico Wine Bar launched in July in Via Savona in Milan and the Tannico Flying School Online – our platform that informs and shortens the distance between people and the world of wine with thematic tours, tutorials, interviews with winemakers and video tastings”.

Vino.com (formerly Vino75), owned by Andrea Nardi Dei, nearly doubled its turnover to 30 million euros, explaining to WineNews: “The market today is made up of a few “pure players”, like us, but also many newcomers and the overall growth (albeit to a lesser extent, ed.) is also due to the classic wine shops that have invested online, and to the channels of the large supermarket chains. It is a market that in the last years has grown by 23% year on year, on average, but there is still a lot of room. One thing that has worked in our favor is that our platform, in 2014 when we started, we wrote it completely by ourselves, and this has been strategic because this year we have been able to keep up the pace without changing our infrastructure”. Also thanks to a partnership that was born from the start with a giant like Google, which is constantly evolving and sees the tools for analysis and promotion becoming more and more refined. ”We don’t just focus on sales – explains Nardi Dei – but on providing an experience: there is the virtual sommelier, there is the possibility of discovering new products and producers, beyond the big brands, thanks to a deep and evolved navigation system, there is, in short, great attention to everything that is the “customer experience”. We have also grown abroad, in particular in Germany, where things are going very well also thanks to the fact that we take care of the customs operations, without any additional burden for those who sell and for those who buy, but also in Holland and Belgium, we are moving in France, Denmark and Sweden, and we are already present in China, which is a very particular market, and where we focus only on high-end products, in a store inside Alibaba”. Another important aspect, is the difference in purchases compared to other channels: “in these months we have also sold wines from large-scale retail trade, but the main target is another one. Just look at the average price: in large-scale distribution”, says Nardi Dei, “we are around 3 euros per liter, while we are around 13/14 euros per bottle, with an average order of 8/10 bottles. And this also tells us that we are not taking away space from the classic wine shops, those in the vicinity or in the neighborhood, where people buy just one bottle for a special occasion. In any case, in my opinion, there are still many possibilities for growth. In Italy, online is still worth less than 2% of the market, and the spaces are not saturated at all”.

A similar vision to that of Alessandro Pazienza, sole director of the Xtrawine group, one of the historical players in the sector in Italy, which, in 2020, “touched an aggregate turnover of 12.5 million euros, up +80% on 2019, of which 10.5 million euros can be attributed to our Italian platform, and 1.5 million euros to the Hong Kong office, even if we historically have international markets as a strategic horizon, so much so that our sales are 45% in Italy and 55% abroad. Certainly, 2020 was a decisive year, the boom did not stop even in the summer when there were reopenings, and 2021 also started with great growth. In fact, even though companies like us have been on the market since 2009, I think we are at the beginning of our history, there is enormous potential in Italy and the world. I do not think we can go back, and I would say more: we are in front of a distribution revolution of the wine product”. And although in recent years, and especially in recent months, dozens of companies dedicated to wine e-commerce have been born, “in my opinion this is a channel that structurally tends to concentration, the big ones, especially among pure players, will remain few”.

Among these, another reality that has grown significantly is Callmewine.com, which at the end of 2020 saw the Italmobiliare of the Pesenti family invest 13 million euros to acquire the majority of the company, of which it now holds 60%. For Callmewine.com, the year closed with 12 million euros in sales, up 95%, and 2021 too began with strong volumes, involving both better-known and commercially strong wines and appellations, as well as more niche and artisanal realities, the portal explains to WineNews.

“Callmewine represents a fast developing reality – comments to WineNews Carlo Pesenti, CEO of Italmobiliare – that has been able to anticipate some of the trends of this last period, such as the increased degree of digitalization of consumers and the greater propensity to buy online. These phenomena are already present and destined to consolidate, also in a framework not conditioned by the constraints imposed by the current situation. The presence of Italmobiliare will make it possible to make the most of important growth levers not yet exploited. On the other hand, the entry into a dynamic reality such as Callmewine is an opportunity for Italmobiliare to consolidate technical, commercial and organizational expertise in the management of e-commerce and the online channel, a strategic know-how that is fundamental today and can also be applied in other portfolio companies”.

A more peculiar case history is that of Winelivery, another reality with important numbers: thanks to a monstrous growth of +600% in 2020 on 2019, it has a turnover of 7.5 million euros, with its app downloaded by more than 700,000 Italians, and 1.2% of the Italian population. A reality, that of Wine Livery that focuses on the peculiarity of express service, with delivery standards in 30 minutes in the main Italian cities, also thanks to 60 stores from Sicily to Alto Adige. 2020 was also an important year from the point of view of funding. The last important investment round concluded in December, saw the reconfirmation of the trust of both partners, including Gellify Digital Investment, as well as the entry of a small pool of new partners synergistic with the project. The collection has allowed the company to find the necessary resources to execute the ambitious development plan of the four-year period 2021-2024, which will bring Winelivery to increase the capillarity and diffusion of the service, thus consolidating its leadership in a segment that, in Italy, has created from scratch. “We consider Winelivery still a startup – says Francesco Magro, founder and CEO of the company – because, as such, we have a desire for growth and we set ourselves very challenging development goals. At the same time, we behave as a company that has to compete on the market, and therefore be able not only to grow at important rates but also to bring profitability to shareholders”.

The future of wine, therefore, also passes through digital and e-commerce, even at a worldwide level. With a channel, of wine e-commerce and everything that revolves around it, that continues to receive major investments, such as the one announced in these hours by Vivino, the most used wine review and sales app in the world (50 million users), which has just raised another $155 in funding, in a round led by Swedish investment firm Kinnevik along with Sprints Capital and others, bringing the total raised by the company created by Heini Zachariassen to $221 million from the foundation. The primary goal of the new investment, a note explains, is to improve the technology platform and artificial intelligence to refine suggestions and recommendations for users. But also to invest more in markets deemed to have higher growth potential, namely the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Portugal and even Italy.

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