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alcohol shipping

5 Considerations for Alcohol Shipping, Fulfillment, and Distribution

Nathan McGuire
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September 24, 2021
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5 Considerations for Alcohol Shipping, Fulfillment, and Distribution
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Alcohol shipping, fulfillment and distribution can be immensely confusing and leave shippers open to serious risks. Yet, demand remains high, especially among liquor and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. Consider how quickly online alcohol shipping sales rose since 2019. According to JOC.com, “Stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) drove up US demand for alcoholic beverages through the second half of 2020, and importers do not expect a decline in volume any time soon, with the reopening hospitality industry restocking to serve a market eager to return to in-person dining, social gatherings, and entertainment.” To help your company avoid setbacks and increase the throughput of alcohol, let’s take a look at what goes into alcohol shipping and how your company can adhere to all the applicable laws, requirements, and standards.

1. Proper Licensure Is Critical to Legal Alcohol Shipping

This is perhaps the most confusing factor affecting the transport of alcohol: is it legal to ship it? The short answer is yes, but it all depends on the exact requirements for the type of alcohol, the destination, and transportation service provider licensure. Regardless of what’s being shipped and where, shippers need to validate that the carrier possesses the right certifications or backing to support its transport, including a federal basic importer’s permit for moving alcohol into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada, an internal license from the U.S., a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA), and proof that all taxes and duties have been paid. Moreover, additional best practices come into play as it is a beverage, meaning it may be subject to temperature requirements (such as staying chilled) but it doesn’t fall under the strict regulations associated with foods and beverage logistics, as required and managed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

2. Volume Limits May Be Enacted Depending on Origin/Destination

Another consideration in alcohol shipping involves volume limits. This includes shipping limits on wine, beer, and liquor, and it’s also equally important to understand that state-specific laws and local jurisdictions may impose additional requirements. However, the best practice is to learn what the laws are for each area and follow them. In many cases, the laws are vague, so when in doubt, ask! And in fact, this is particularly true among the 17 states that exert clear, complete monopolies over beer, wine and liquor sales. Those states are::

  • Alabama
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

3. Avoid Bottling Early in Distribution; Shipping in Bulk

One way to avoid the risks of shipping large volumes of alcohol and becoming subject to the individual bottles requirements is to ship in bulk. This alleviates much of the confusion because it allows for a larger volume to be shipped without risking delays or other issues. It may sound strange, but because it’s being sent via tanker, there are fewer regulations as it’s less likely to fall into the hands of underage individuals or those who shouldn’t be drinking. In turn, this amounts to bottling alcohol closer to the point of end distribution, which also reduces your overhead costs as well. 

4. Consider Leveraging Intermodal Where Possible

Like moving alcohol by bulk tanker, it’s also wise to review intermodal shipping options, such as rail, for alcohol transport. Rail provides a reliable and effective way to move libations without becoming subject to all the rules associated with trucking transportation of alcohol. It’s all about mitigating risk.

5. Think About Cross-Docking/Dropshipping Fulfillment Options

Lastly, the biggest consideration in alcohol shipping is to eliminate your responsibility in managing the transportation, leveraging cross-docking to reduce your need to handle the goods, or letting your manufacturers ship directly to consumers. That alleviates the burden of responsibility, shifts it to the manufacturers, and allows your business to better focus on supply chain optimization and reducing costs. 

Improve Alcohol Shipping, Fulfillment, and Distribution With the Right Logistics Partner

Accountability is the name of the game in alcohol shipping, and as the demand for more e-commerce shipping rises, the demand for alcohol shipping will also continue. This is driven, in part, by the rise of delivery services, like DoorDash and meal delivery companies, that have now folded alcohol into their portfolio of errand-like runners. Therefore, it’s imperative for shippers to stay mindful of their alcohol shipments and know what to expect as listed above. Lessen your risk by working with Wicker Park Logistics, an expert in shipping all things from libations to bulk goods. Contact Wicker Park Logistics to get started today.

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