"We shouldn't take the butter off each other's sandwiches." This is not the opinion of a dairy farmer, but of the managing director of a large wine cooperative in franconia. Michael schweinberger receives approving nods from his colleagues. The cooperation between GWF, divino nordheim and winzerkeller sommerach has long been sealed.
The three managers are hoping to achieve the synergy effects they are relying on. However, there will be no major changes for the employees or the customers: job cuts? In no case. Price increase? Currently not planned. Cost savings: but for sure.
The decision-makers from the three cooperatives have gathered in the meeting room of the winzerkeller sommerach: together, they account for 65 to 70 percent of the sales generated by frankenwein in the german food retail trade (LEH). Seven out of ten bottles of frankenwein purchased in 2011 came from the cooperatives.
A fiercely competitive market
Food retailing is a prestigious and fiercely competitive market. The annual talks at the large food chains cost a lot of substance year after year, and every cent is fought for there. "We can now negotiate at eye level", schweinberger is pleased. "We no longer want to be blackmailed."
The cooperation expands the product range. The GWF's branded wines are complemented by the premium wines of the winzerkeller and divino. So far, they have hardly been able to score in the food retail sector, because in some cases they have not been able to offer the minimum quantities required. "We can offer the perfect complement to the high rotation of the GWF", says the managing director of the winzerkeller sommerach, frank dietrich. He speaks of a conclusive assortment of frankenwein and of a completely different impact, which is to bring frankenwein forward throughout germany.
Schweinberger rejects any suspicion of price fixing. In terms of antitrust law, the three cooperatives are far too small a light in germany, he says. It was never a question of agreements, but of a joint strategy. "The same costs are spread over several shoulders", he clarifies.
Storage, order processing, logistics and accounting are handled centrally at GWF. In return, the winzerkeller sommerach is taking over the same work steps for a new GWF range that is to gain a foothold in the specialist trade. The full plant in repperndorf can also be used by the people of sommerach and nordheim. Not only, as before, for the discount assortment, but also for the food retail assortment. Dietrich sees the long-term financial effect: "this cooperation protects us from investments that would otherwise have been necessary."
Common ground has its limits
Markus schoebel from divino also sees only advantages: "we didn't get anywhere in the LEH on our own. Together we will celebrate great successes." But the common ground also has its limits. In the specialist retail sector, divino is announcing a cooperation agreement with winzerkeller sommerach. The structures and goals in this area are too similar. It's not possible to do without competition after all.
The cooperation is sealed under the umbrella of the french wine office (K). 14 sales representatives will be on the road for the K throughout germany, offering the portfolio of the three cooperatives. On different price lists, as the three business leaders affirm.
The president of the french winegrowers association, artur steinmann, is enthusiastic about the cooperation. "It reflects the team spirit of the three cooperatives after auben." Steinmann speaks of an "almost historical significance" and sees advantages through the coarser scooping of values, which can have an effect down to the individual winegrower. "He will benefit financially from this cooperation."
The butter on the bread should therefore also be secured in the far future.