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Best Shipping Practices for Shipping Alcohol

UK drinks exports are at an all-time high, with recent Hazzlewoods’ research showing a 13% increase to £9.4 billion in the past year. With National Wine Day approaching, this is the perfect occasion for businesses to celebrate with their customers and boost online sales. 

For eCommerce businesses, this day highlights the need to ensure that wine and other alcoholic beverages are shipped safely and arrive in perfect condition. Effective shipping not only enhances customer satisfaction but also strengthens brand loyalty, providing a competitive edge in the growing online market for alcohol. By mastering shipping best practices, businesses can capitalise on the National Wine Day surge and deliver a seamless experience to their customers. 

In this blog, we’ll cover best practices for shipping alcohol, common challenges when shipping alcohol domestically and abroad, and how Despatch Cloud can help streamline and simplify those processes. 

Understanding the Regulations for Shipping Alcohol

Before we get into the general good practise portion of this blog, we would like to highlight the importance of thoroughly understanding regulations and legal requirements for shipping alcohol in the UK and abroad.   

Shipping alcohol, particularly internationally, involves added complexity due to varying regulations across different countries. Each destination may have unique rules, necessary documentation, and customs requirements that must be meticulously adhered to. 

Failure to comply with these regulations can result in delays, fines, or even the confiscation of shipments. Therefore, businesses must stay informed about the legal landscape to ensure seamless delivery and maintain a smooth operation, ultimately protecting their reputation and customer satisfaction. 

For government guidance on alcohol imports and exports, we recommend you check the GOV.UK website, or get in touch with HRMC for additional support. 

What Are The Challenges When Shipping Alcohol Abroad

Now that we’ve briefly covered legalities, let’s dive into some of the most common challenges when shipping alcohol abroad:  

 

Customs and Duties 

Shipping alcohol internationally presents significant challenges related to customs clearance and duties. Alcohol shipments are often subject to stringent customs inspections, which can lead to delays. Each country imposes its own duties and taxes on imported alcohol, and these costs can vary widely. Businesses must navigate complex paperwork and ensure accurate declarations to avoid fines and ensure timely delivery. Understanding and planning for these costs and procedures are essential to maintaining compliance and ensuring a smooth delivery process. 

  

Packaging and Handling 

Proper packaging and handling are critical when shipping alcohol to prevent breakage and ensure safe delivery. Alcoholic beverages, particularly glass bottles, are fragile and prone to damage if not packed correctly. Using sturdy, protective packaging materials, such as cushioned inserts and double-walled boxes, helps safeguard the products during transit. Additionally, proper labelling indicating fragile contents and handling instructions can further mitigate the risk of damage, ensuring that customers receive their orders in perfect condition. 

  

Delivery Restrictions 

Delivery restrictions pose another challenge when shipping alcohol. Many regions have specific limitations on delivery times and locations, often requiring age verification upon delivery to ensure compliance with legal drinking age laws. Some areas may also restrict the types of alcohol that can be shipped or the quantity that can be sent in a single shipment. These restrictions necessitate careful planning and coordination to ensure that deliveries are made legally and efficiently, without infringing on local regulations. 

  

Cost Implications 

The cost implications of shipping alcohol are considerable, impacting both the business and the customer. Shipping costs are often higher for alcohol due to the need for specialised handling and packaging. Additionally, duties and taxes imposed by customs authorities can add significant expense. Businesses must account for these costs in their pricing strategy to remain competitive while maintaining profitability. Transparent communication about shipping costs with customers is also crucial to manage expectations and ensure a positive purchasing experience. 

Best Practises for Shipping Alcoholic Beverages

Selecting the Right Carrier 

Choosing the right carrier is crucial when shipping alcohol. It’s important to select a carrier with experience in handling alcohol shipments, as they will be familiar with the necessary legal requirements and have established procedures to ensure compliance. An experienced carrier will also have a network in place to manage any potential issues that may arise during transit, ensuring your products arrive safely and on time. 

  

Proper Packaging  

Proper packaging is essential to prevent breakage and ensure the safe delivery of alcohol. Use sturdy, protective materials such as cushioned inserts, double-walled boxes, and dividers to secure bottles and prevent them from shifting during transit. Additionally, sealing bottles with shrink wrap or tamper-evident caps can provide an extra layer of protection and reassurance for customers. 

  

Labelling Requirements 

Accurate labelling is critical for alcohol shipments. Ensure each package includes all necessary labels and information, such as “Fragile,” “This Side Up,” and any legally required warnings or symbols indicating the contents are alcoholic. Additionally, include all required shipping and customs documentation to facilitate smooth processing through legal and regulatory checkpoints. 

  

Temperature Control 

Maintaining the quality of alcohol during transit often requires temperature control. Extreme temperatures can affect the taste and integrity of the product. Consider using insulated packaging or refrigerated shipping options to protect the alcohol from temperature fluctuations. This is especially important for wines and other temperature-sensitive beverages. 

  

Insurance 

Insuring alcohol shipments is vital to cover potential losses due to damage, theft, or other unforeseen issues. While proper packaging and selecting the right carrier reduce risks, insurance provides an extra layer of protection, ensuring that you are compensated in case of any mishaps. This not only protects your investment but also helps maintain customer satisfaction by allowing you to quickly address any problems that arise during shipping.

The Case for Insurance When Shipping Alcoholic Beverages

Unfortunately, many conventional insurance products often exclude drinks from coverage.

That is why Despatch Cloud has partnered with Anansi to provide eCommerce businesses with a comprehensive solution for shipping alcoholic beverages in the UK and beyond. Anansi’s cutting-edge embedded loss and damage cover goes beyond just delivering peace of mind for drinks companies that are seeking to export, but it helps to reduce staff time and effort with online automated claims. It’s a regulated insurance product which protects the brand, the bottom line and the customer experience. Anansi’s data-driven approach also provides transparency and actionable insights for continual improvement.

 

Sample case 

Anansi was approached by a gin retailer seeking coverage. In this case, Anansi requested additional information about the business to confirm the price. This included details on the packaging or container used, whether the drinks were temperature-sensitive or alcoholic, any anti-theft mitigations in place, and data on volumes, average order value, and loss history.

With this information, Anansi provided a quote based on a percentage of the item’s value, allowing the client to choose coverage up to the cost price or the full retail value before onboarding.

After that, the client’s shipments are automatically recorded by Despatch Cloud and sent to Anansi’s platform for insurance as soon as they leave the warehouse. Claims are settled on a monthly basis.

 

In summary

This partnership combines Despatch Cloud’s robust shipping management software with Anansi’s specialised insurance services, offering a seamless and integrated approach to managing and protecting alcohol shipments. By leveraging this partnership, businesses can not only streamline their shipping processes but also ensure their shipments are covered against potential risks. This holistic solution enhances efficiency, reduces the stress of managing logistics, and ensures that customers receive their orders in perfect condition, thus boosting overall customer satisfaction.

Please make sure to check Anansi’s terms and conditions for insuring alcoholic beverages both domestically and abroad.

Other Ways Despatch Cloud Helps

Shipping alcohol can be a complex and challenging process due to stringent regulations, special packaging requirements, and the need for secure handling. Despatch Cloud’s shipping management software offers a suite of features designed to streamline and simplify the shipment of alcohol, ensuring compliance and efficiency from order to delivery.

 

Streamlining Shipments

Despatch Cloud’s shipping management software simplifies the entire process of shipping alcohol, from order management to carrier selection. By consolidating all shipping tasks into a single platform, businesses can easily manage orders, select the most suitable carriers, and automate routine tasks, making the shipping process more efficient and less time-consuming.

 

Real-Time Tracking

Real-time tracking is a key feature that benefits both sellers and customers. Despatch Cloud provides comprehensive tracking capabilities, allowing businesses to monitor shipments throughout the delivery process. This transparency ensures that customers are kept informed about the status of their orders, enhancing their overall shopping experience and providing peace of mind.

 

Automated Documentation

Creating the necessary shipping documents manually can be error-prone and time-consuming. Despatch Cloud automates this process, generating all required documents such as customs declarations and shipping labels. This automation reduces the likelihood of errors, saves time, and ensures that all paperwork is accurate and compliant with regulations.

 

Integrated Carrier Solutions

Despatch Cloud integrates with multiple carriers, enabling businesses to compare rates and services easily. This integration allows for the selection of the best shipping options based on cost, speed, and reliability, ensuring that alcohol shipments are delivered efficiently and economically. By leveraging these carrier partnerships, businesses can optimise their shipping strategies and enhance their overall logistics operations.

Conclusion

Shipping alcohol presents unique challenges, from navigating customs and duties to ensuring safe packaging and handling. In this blog, we’ve covered essential best practices, including selecting the right carrier, using proper packaging, adhering to labelling requirements, maintaining temperature control, and insuring shipments. These practices help ensure that your alcohol products reach customers safely and efficiently. 

To streamline your alcohol shipping process, consider leveraging Despatch Cloud’s shipping management software. Our platform simplifies shipment management, offers real-time tracking, automates documentation, and integrates with multiple carriers to help you find the best shipping options for your needs. 

As we celebrate National Wine Day, let’s raise a toast to efficient and reliable shipping. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your favourite wines can be shipped with confidence and care. Cheers to responsible celebrations and the convenience of Despatch Cloud! 

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FAQs

Only licensed businesses can ship alcohol using FedEx. Licensees must also be enrolled in the FedEx alcohol shipping program. For more information on licensing requirements for shipping alcohol, you can visit their dedicated webpage here. 

Yes, you can ship alcohol with UPS, but only if you are a licensed shipper and have a contract with UPS. This applies to spirits, beer, and wine. UPS only accepts these shipments from authorised shippers who comply with applicable laws and have an approved UPS agreement. Additionally, shipments of beer and wine are limited to selected states. For more details, visit the UPS pages on How To Ship Beer and How To Ship Wine. 

Yes, DHL ships alcohol. Through a partnership with Hillebrand Gori, DHL offers specialised transportation for the wine and spirits industry. This includes secure and optimised warehousing, advanced IT technology, and certified transport procedures to ensure a seamless delivery process. DHL has dedicated offices and warehouses in major wine and spirit-producing countries, specialised teams in consumer markets, and a network of experts to manage and protect your shipments. You can learn more about their services here. 

Yes, you can ship alcohol with Royal Mail, but there are strict guidelines. Alcohol over 70% ABV is not allowed domestically or internationally. For alcohol between 24% and 70% ABV, such as gin or whisky, shipping within the UK is allowed with restrictions: up to 1 litre per item and no more than two items per parcel. Proper packaging, labelling as ‘FRAGILE,’ and clear sender details are required. International shipping for this category is not permitted. Alcohol with 24% ABV or less, like beer or wine, can be shipped both domestically and internationally under similar packaging and quantity restrictions. Always ensure compliance with the packaging guidelines to avoid issues. You can find more information on how to ship alcohol with Royal Mail here. 

Yes, you can ship wine with DPD, and they ensure your bottles arrive safely. DPD offers certified wine packaging designed specifically for wine and sparkling wine bottles, providing exceptional security during transit. For more information, visit their website here.