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HELP - astronomical bottling costs

Brandi B

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Hi ADI, We are working with a contract distillery that has distilled our base product (bourbon), and last year quoted us a bottling labor fee of $2.57 per bottle. This is for a standard 750 mL bottle (about 3,000 bottles), with front label and back label machine applied and tamper hand applied. 

Once the liquid was ready and we shipped all our supplies, we were told that quote is expired and the new quote (one year later) is $6.70 per bottle. A cataclysmic price that would totally sink our business. 

I would love some perspective from this community -- is this some post-Covid pricing or are we being taken advantage of? Has anyone ever heard of labor costs this high? 

And does anyone have bottler recommendations in or between North Carolina and New Jersey, that might have more reasonable costs? We are ready to ship all our liquid, bottles, and bottling supplies, we just need a solution quickly as our product is due in the warehouse by the end of the month. 

Would love some perspective from this group. Thanks so much. 


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How large are they, and what contract size do they normally do? It's possible this is like any contract business right now - they're quoting you very high to see if you bite. They may be so busy that the only way it's worth the time and effort to them is if you pay a crazy rate. It may be their way of telling you "buzz off".

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The labor portion of our COG on a bottling run is about $.30 a bottle. Our minimum wage here is $16.00 plus tax and health care. 

Looks like your vendor is "tightening up" his fees due to inflation and increased labor costs, billing for bottles/labels/cork/caps on top of labor, or like @EchoJoe said just trying to move you along.

Good luck with your bottle run.

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If they are just short on labor, which is obviously pretty common these days, you might be able to volunteer your own time to get a reduction for at least one last bottling run before figuring out another option. You could also fill 3,000 bottles with just a 500$ enolmatic in a long day If you have a space, or they can provide you a space, where you can do so legally.

It seems very high, but like Joe says, it might just be too small an order to be worth their time. Have you tried to have more of a conversation with them?

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Get your product and run away. Even if the above reasons most people are giving are true (brushing you off or inflating the cost to see if you'll "bite"), that's a supremely shitty way to do business. Transparency and honesty should be at the core of all discussions. If they can't give you a justifiable reason, walk away. They'll only continue to try to roll you.

I've been working on locating bottlers lately for a client and came across a few possible candidates for you:

I spoke with someone at Strong Spirits in KY the other day and they seemed pretty awesome, though I didn't get pricing yet. They are capable of doing very small batches, which will likely be your biggest barrier.

Laird's does contract bottling in NJ, but their capacity minimums are much higher than Strong.

I've sent clients to Lidestri in NY before, not exclusively for bottling, but product development and co-packing. I do see some concerning online reviews regarding how they manage their shipping dock, so that's worth exploring. You don't want a pissed off shipper handling your product.

Good luck. This industry is full of weasels. Beware.

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Just echoing what's been said: use a small bottler and save money for a system (or find a different bottler).

I could have 1 well-trained employee making $22/hour do the entire 3,000 bottle run in a week with 2 enolmatics. The labor cost would be around $.35-$.40 per bottle. $6.70 per bottle is definitely a company with more work than they can handle charging excessive fees to either run you off or gouge you on the price. 

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  • 2 months later...

Sounds very high, average labor cost in NZ is > $20 p/h and the typical bottling cost is between $1-2 NZD per bottle depending on labels or clear skin. I would reach out to other distilleries In you area. 


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