The alcohol industry in Singapore can be a seriously lucrative place to do business. Before jumping in, you have a few questions: What’s the market like here? What are duties and taxes on alcohol? Who are some distributors to look out for?
Whether you’ve already checked out the competition, or are have just started thinking about expanding your wine distribution business into the island of Tiger Beer and skyscrapers, this guide is for you.
It includes a few of the basics and things that we've learned from our customers to help you get started on the right foot to get into the wine business in Singapore.
Overview of the wine market in Singapore
Let’s start with some reality - the wine market in Singapore is competitive. This city-state of 5.5 million people has 117 wine wholesalers and 327 wine retailers, all vying for attention from the growing number of restaurants, bars hotels and other venues where people regularly sit down over glasses of wine.
Singapore also has high taxes on alcohol, and getting a permit and breaking into the market takes a bit of time.
Regardless of the challenges, this is a good market to target. This is a population with a high number of people with disposable income and they’re increasingly willing to spend that income on wine. One study predicts that from 2013 to 2017, Singapore wine consumption will increase by 21%.
Who came early for the party and what are they bringing?
Most of the wine currently being imported is coming from Australia, France and Chile - they're the top three importers in Singapore, by volume.
Currently, Singaporeans seem to prefer red wine above all others. 64% of wine consumed in Singapore is red, and between 2008 and 2012, this segment grew by 10.5%. Generally, consumers of wine tend to be in the age range of 25-50 years old, and the majority are male, but like any developing market, this demographic can change quickly.
Duties and Taxes in Singapore
Singapore’s duties and taxes, while high, are pretty straightforward once you’ve worked out the formula. Singapore’s customs website gives a succinct outline of excise taxes.
Wine, regardless of % of alcohol and type, including port, sparkling, red and white, carries an excise tax of SG$88 (convert to your currency here) per liter of alcohol, meaning that the formula is simply:
For example: 100 liters of a wine that is 13% alcohol would be:
In addition to excise tax, the government also applies a 7% GST to all imported goods.
Most imported spirits and liquors also have this tax of $88 per liter of alcohol, while beers and ciders carry a $60 per liter excise tax.
Permits and permissions
In addition to excise taxes and duties, you’ll need a permit to become an alcohol importer. The Singapore government has a really clear, well-explained guide to importing for those looking to make their start.
Check out this link for more information on permits and licensing requirements, depending on what you’re looking to do here.
For more information on all the legal stuff, have a look at this guide from Singapore tax authority. It’s a great overall resource for importers regarding warehouses, free trade zones and excise factories.
3PLs, bonded warehouses and delivery
Are you thinking of using a 3PL or a bonded warehouse to expand your business here? A bonded or liscensed warehouse can be an ideal option. Use a liscensed warehouse to store your wine in designated areas with the excise taxes and GST tax suspended until they're removed from the warehouse for sale or consumption.
As a further advantage, duty and GST are also suspended if the goods are sent back out for export or if the sale of the goods takes place from the warehouse itself. A bonded warehouse brings cash flow relief and can be great if you're using Singapore as a transit hub for the rest of the region.
There are literally hundreds of 3PLs or bonded warehouses to choose from, but here are four we’ve seen many of our customers using.
This global 3PL transports beverages and liquids all over the world, making them a good choice for alcohol distributors.
JF Hillebrand focuses on beer, wine and spirits. They offer temperature controlled warehousing and global frieght forwarding.
This liscensed warehouse specializes in the handling and storage of goods like alcohol, tobacco and other dutiable items.
CWT Limited is one of Singapore's largest chilled storage warehouses for wine. It offers bonded/liscensed warehousing options. Under CWT Limited, you'll find the Singapore Wine Vault, experts in wine handling.
These 3PLs and their warehouses know what they’re doing when it comes to warehousing wine, including having temperature controlled spaces, knowledge about excise taxes, and the best storage and import model for a business.
Once you've got the warehousing and distribution set up, here's a look at a few of your external delivery options in Singapore:
Zyllem: Same day delivery service around the island that connects companies and delivery drivers on their platform.
NinjaVan: on-demand delivery service across Singapore.
A few local distributors to look out for
All the dry stuff out of the way, who can you do business with once you get here? We have a few suggestions of distributors you should check out in Singapore:
TSA stands for Tastes So Awesome and that acronym says everything you need to know about these wine wholesalers. Founded by two wine lovers who are just looking for good tasting wine and beer to bring to Singapore, they import an interesting mix. They’re the exclusive distributors for several brands. Find out more on their website here.
Laurels Wines comes into the picture as one of the major alcohol distributors and wholesalers in Singapore. Positioned more for the luxury market, you’ll find they carry a wide range of wines from sparkling to non-alcoholic. Check out their website for more information.
Among the most established wine wholesalers and distributors in Singapore, CornerStone Wines has been in business since 1938. Now on its third generation of owners, CornerStone distributes wines, beers and spirits all around the region. They offer a range of storage options in their duty-paid and bonded warehouse. Find out more online.
Proof and Co.
Moving away from wines a bit, the artisanal cocktail is also becoming a favorite in Singapore - requiring the importation of craft spirits too. Proof and Co is a liquor distributor, offering highly curated unique spirits, mostly from the USA. They started as the suppliers behind 28 Hong Kong Street, (voted Asia’s number 1 bar), and have grown from there. Their website is here.
If you're looking for more information on distributors and retailers in Singapore, there's an extensive list here.Good to know
Here are a few other things that are good to know about the Singapore import market in general:
If you're looking at getting your start in the market in a marketplace, check out Winefamily. It supports multiple vendors who sell directly to consumers.
If you're selling on consignment, check out this law. If an overseas company sells goods to a local company on consignment, the local company will be the importer, rather than the foreign one.
Also, Singapore is a free port, meaning that parallel importing is allowed. What is it? Parallel importing is a part of the grey market, where an original product is imported from someone other than the intellectual property owner in a different market.
For example, a company in Singapore could be importing the same wine as your brand, but bought from a reseller in another market that sells it at a cheaper price. This brings in extra competition, so it’s something to be aware of.
In summary, when you think of the Singapore wine market, think red wine, $88 taxes and 5.6 million people. But looking deeper, think of Singapore as a relatively new market that is ripe with opportunities for the right wine distributor.
Want to hear more? Interested in other industries here in Singapore such as beer or spirits? Let us know here or in the comments, and we’ll tell you all we know about the beer, wine and spirits markets.
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