Clear aims

Vinkova is looking forward to the future with a significant investment aimed at adding value to its website

First established in 1966, Vinkova is today the largest Dutch importer and distributor of glass containers and bottles for the food industry. The company’s product portfolio comprises of 400 different glass bottles and jars, and it tailor makes any other required design outside of the portfolio. Vinkova sources its packaging from the most important glass factories in Europe including Barbosa & Almeida, Heye, Rexam Glass, Saint Gobain, Thüringer, Vetropack, Warta, Weck and Wiegand.

Starting his career at Vinkova 22 years ago, André Rombout, the current managing director and owner of the company, describes his journey within the business: ‘Vinkova was part of an international group with sales companies located in Belgium, France and Holland. In 1998, my former boss, who was then the MD of Vinkova, and I decided to takeover the company, which meant we were independent and free to do what we wanted instead – this proved very successful. We then formed two sister companies: Adolfse Packaging manufactures natural corks, plastic corks, crown corks and pilferproof bottle closures; and Vincap produces twist-off caps as well as plastic closures. Three and a half years ago, I bought him out and am now the sole owner of Vinkova though we do still co-operate a lot together.’

‘Following the management buy-out in 1998, we made our own policies and strategies and were very successful. Vinkova experienced significant growth of between 20 to 25 per cent for over six years, but for the last three years we’ve stabilised. However economics in Europe is rising again and I forecast growing sales figures. At the end of the 2005/2006 financial year, we saw growth of ten per cent and I expect another ten to 15 per cent for 2006/2007.’

André continues: ‘The Netherlands, our domestic market, is still our most important one. Being the largest importer and wholesaler in this market makes us a very strong player. Our customer base includes some of the major companies with prominent names including Grolsch – we’re proud to say that we deliver all of their swing-top bottles from Vetropack, a glass factory in Austria.’

‘The Netherlands has always been a nation of trade and Vinkova has been a part of this for decades. I have customers who buy wine in bulk from other parts of the world including Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, France and Italy. These then make their way to the bottling companies to be filled up in the bottles we deliver. There are only three companies today that are capable of carrying out this job, as over 75 million bottles are filled in Holland every year – very significant for such a small country. As well as alcohol, we also have customers who bottle fruit juices and fruit juice syrups especially for toddlers and children.’

He continues: ‘About 80 per cent of our business is for the domestic market and the rest is exported. We have a lot of customers in the UK, with demands increasing everyday and a number in Ireland, which we are actively working to increase. We also have customers in parts of the world you wouldn’t automatically think of – one of our customers is a large beer brewery in Tahiti; and that’s the other side of the world altogether!’

‘We’re looking to expand our export market and believe that the internet is the perfect medium to reach out to potential customers worldwide. Currently we’re working to add more value onto our website. It’s normal practice for glass factories to have specification drawings in 2D, which is also what we currently have on our website, and most glass factories have their very own design and unique way of presenting their products – we want Vinkova to have its own style too. By October, our new website will have a unique style as well as a 2D and a 3D presentation option. To give us the edge over our competitors, our investment will enable customers to not only be able to pick a suitable bottle design but also add their choice of filling, for example red wine, to help them visualise and decide.’

Moving on, André highlights the challenges faced by the industry: ‘There was one period when the glass industry was drowning with over-capacity – competition was strong, prices plummeted and production facilities were shutting down in record numbers. However today, the opposite is happening – there is less glass capacity to satisfy demands, resulting in soaring prices. This problem started in Germany and spread like wild fire across Europe, and is predicted to continue until 2008.’

‘We’re trying to find sources outside of Europe but the eminent problem is that you end up transporting more air than glass. The normal distance between a glass factory and a customer tends to be no more than 600 kilometres but we’ve already taken on the challenge to buy and transport glass bottles over 1000 kilometres. For example the Grolsch swing-top bottles are sourced from Vetropack in Austria and transported over 1000 kilometres to Grolsch’s beer brewery. We’ve managed to do this because we’re able to purchase bottles for the best market price. We also have the advantage of the stream of empty trucks returning from that part of Europe back to Holland. They make their profits on the way to the customer but are now able to benefit on the way back as well.’

He adds: ‘We aim to grow in the next two years while there are still possibilities, and to achieve this we will need to look for sources outside of Europe. We’ve been reasonably successful so far in doing business with a glass factory in Brazil though we’re only focusing on small containers, so we transport less air. Apart from just good purchasing prices, we’re also interested in ensuring that the quality produced is able to meet our customer’s high demands. We’re currently also looking at other potential suppliers in India, China and the Middle East.’

André concludes: ‘Our customers trust us and this is not something we want to jeopardise. And should there be any unforeseen problems, they know for a fact that Vinkova will solve them – this is very important to us.’