General Director, Viborel
Wine and beverage distributors are focused on expanding their coverage and gaining market share, intensifying their digitalization efforts, and meeting customers’ needs in the market.
How has the company evolved since its establishment?
JOÃO MORÃO PrimeDrinks is the number one wines and spirits distributor in Portugal selling around EUR60 million. It is a cohesive, family-owned company with three shareholders (Esporão, Aveleda, and William Grant & Sons). It also represents 10 third-party brand owners in wine— Ermelinda Freitas, Herdade dos Grous, Carm, Fiuza, Nicolau de Almeida, and Luis Pato—and spirits (Edrington, Stoli Group, Amber Beverage Group, and Lucas Bols). It has a strong portfolio of leading brands such as Monte Velho, Casal Garcia, Esporão, Aveleda, Hendrick’s, Grant’s, The Balvenie, and Glenfiddich. Currently, sustainability has become a big differentiator for companies across all industries, and bio and natural wines are gaining traction among younger and informed consumers, while categories continue to blur such as rosé, sangria, wine with flavors, and so on. Alcohol education is fundamental: drink less but better.
JOÃO BRAGA Viborel is a successful company and has always earned profits since year one, even during the pandemic. COVID-19 interrupted 10 years of growth for the company, but we are currently almost at our 2019 levels. We have partners that have been with us since the beginning, or almost the beginning. Those represent 80% of our business. The loyalty of our clients is part of our success also. Our core business is focused on still and sparkling wines. Our suppliers, the wineries, all have their export departments, so our knowledge and expertise remains local markets and distribution. We have never sought to go abroad, because we would need teams that would need to have that expertise and create a new department for that purpose. We are doing well, one of the best in the local markets. What achievements are you particularly proud of? JM We are bringing innovation to Portugal by launching Monte Velho Rosé in 2021 and Monte Velho Bio in 2022. We are doing brand development and expansion into new wine regions: Esporão launching Bico Amarelo from the Vinhos Verdes region in 2021 and Aveleda launching Mandriola (red & white wines) from the Lisbon region in 2022. In whisky, we are focused in bringing knowledge and education to the trade and consumer by developing a 360-approach based on the whisky tasting profiles. As leaders, we create trends. The entire company is driven by innovation through in-house processes development and education. JB We were the ones to introduce Red Bull, Monster Energy, Cutty Sark, and Capri Sun in Portugal. Those companies are multinationals, and when we work with these companies we also acquire their know-how. They usually have money to invest and develop their brands and markets, and we learn with them. We also open new points of sale that allow the development and introduction of our main brands. However, the greatest achievement is becoming the distributor of brands there are leaders in their categories and creating the conditions to keep them leaders for next years.
How did the pandemic affect the company’s operations?
JM The pandemic brought uncertainty and doubt in terms of on-trade constraints, raising payments, and cash flow issues. It was critical to manage the financial capacities, address stress tests to maintain the company’s structure, and secure cash flow to address business issues. We also developed a digital channel and were the first distributor to implement a digital dedicated business unit. This was followed by a similar approach to the luxury and prestige business area with a fine wine and spirits division to address this big opportunity, particularly for the on-trade reopening.
What are the key advantages that make you a leading player in the local market?
JB The most important advantage is being an independent distributor. We treat everyone and supplier, big or small, the same way. They all have the same opportunities. Viborel is the only distributor with a mixed style of succeeding in the market. We can fill the market more quickly than others, because we have our sales force, and we can quickly respond to the needs of the market and transfer to the other Portuguese markets, the experience that we have in Lisbon. This is the big difference we have from all the other big distributors of beverages in Portugal. We are an independent, flexible, and agile company.
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