Distribution of Wine in Poland

Practical Guide

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Poland: a wine market you can’t afford to miss

The Polish wine market is very promising. Poles are increasingly turning into wine, what is associated with the development of culinary culture, adoption of a western lifestyle and the growing income of the society. Table wine is currently the fourth largest alcohol category sold in Poland. The very fast development is noticed also in the sparkling wine sector. Prosecco and Cava varieties achieved a real success in Poland, recording a particularly high increase in sales. There is a noticeable trend toward premiumization, i.e. the tendency to purchase higher quality products.

How to protect your trademark in Poland

To register a trademark in Poland it is necessary to file a trademark application to the Polish Patent Office. The application fee is PLN 450 (app. EUR 110) if the product is classified in one Nice class. The applicant has to pay also PLN 90 (app. EUR 23) for the publication of the information on granting of trade mark protection in the Patent Office bulletin. The fee for a 10-year protection period for each Nice class is PLN 400 (app. EUR 100). If the Patent Office does not identify any grounds for refusing registration, the application is published in the Patent Office Bulletin. Within 3 months from such publication, third parties may file an opposition to the application. If there is no opposition filed or the opposition is found inadmissible or is rejected, the Patent Office registers the trademark. The trademark registration procedure takes approximately 6 months. A correctly filed application significantly shortens the time of its examination, therefore, when registering a trademark, it is worth using the services of a lawyer or patent attorney. The protection of a national trade mark lasts 10 years and may be extended for subsequent periods, given the payment of the pertinent fees. It should be remembered that by registering a trademark in the Polish Patent Office, this trademark enjoys protection only in the territory of Poland. To obtain broader protection consider trademark registration at the European (EUIPO) (please refer to the EU county guide) or international level (WIPO). In the light of the Patent Office’s databases, the wine industry has so far registered word, word-figurative and figurative trademarks.

Wine label regulations in Poland

The wine labelling is subject to the EU rules. At the national level, the rules for the labelling of wine products are contained in the provisions on the commercial quality of agri-food products.

These rules provide that the wine marketed in Poland must be labelled, at least, in Polish language and the correctness of the labelling, including the presence of all mandatory information, is subject to the control of specialized inspections, and improper product labelling may lead to fines.

The Polish regulations for wine trade

Trading wine in Poland may be subject to control by numerous authorities such as in particular: Trade Inspectorate, Sanitary Inspectorate as well as Commercial Quality of Agricultural and Food Products Inspectorate.

Pursuant to the Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism, wine sales in Poland requires a permit (alcohol in the range of 4,5 % - 18 %). Separate permits are required for wholesale wine trade (they are issued by a voivodship marshal) and for retail wine trade (they are issued by the executive body of a municipality). The municipal councils are authorized to determine the number of alcohol sales points in the municipality and detailed rules for granting the retail sale permits.

The permit granting procedure takes approximately 1 month. Fee for issuing the permit for the wholesale trade permit is PLN 4.000 (EUR 1.000), while the fee for the retail trade permit is PLN 525 (EUR 130). The fees for the continued use of the permit depend on the actual value of sales.

Undertaking business activity in the field of wine trade requires also notification to the Voivodeship Inspector of Commercial Quality of Agricultural and Food Products (WIJHARS).

In the case of establishing cooperation with a Polish entity, it is worth checking if it has a relevant permit, it will avoid the risk of having the goods seized by the customs office.

It should be noted that in Poland it is forbidden to advertise and promote the sale of wine.

Customs clearance, duties and taxation for the sale of wine in Poland

To run a business in Poland it is necessary to register as a VAT payer (the obligation becomes effective once a certain amount of turnover is reached, as specified in the applicable regulations) and as an excise duty payer.
Registration as an excise duty payer entails obligation to, among other things, keep records of excise goods and to register excise marks.

As Poland is part of the European Customs Union, the excise regime and the movement of goods is within the European Economic Area is subject to EU rules so, please, refer to the EU guide. The sale of wine in Poland is subject to the following taxation:

  • excise duty – the excise duty for wine is PLN 158 per 1 hl of a finished product
  • value added tax (VAT) (23%)

The Alcoholic Beverages Industry Employers’ Association has calculated that in case of sales of a bottle of wine of 0.75 litre, costing PLN 15 (approx. 3,5 €), the taxes constitute 26% of sales price (PLN 1.11 - excise tax and PLN 2.80 - VAT).

Poland is one of the few EU Member States where there is still an obligation to affix excise tax strip, i.e. a paper band, on wines. Abolishing of the obligation has been proposed by the industry for a long time, but it has not yet been adopted.

Sale of wine via e-commerce

Act on Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism lists the following places where retail sales of alcohol is allowed: (i) specialized shops selling alcoholic beverages, (ii) separate stands in self-service supermarkets occupying the area of over 200m2, (iii) other self-service outlets with direct sales of alcoholic beverages. In case of wine, selling wine is also possible in an outlet where the wine production from grapes grown in own vineyards takes.

The law does not, however, explicitly regulate selling alcohol via the Internet, which leads to divergent conclusions whether such sales are allowed in Poland at all, and also case law is not uniform in this respect.

Retailers, therefore, are approaching the issue in different ways: some resign from such activity, others are looking for ways to minimize the risk involved. One of the solutions adopted thereby is the provision – often included in the general terms and conditions of the e-shop – that the place of sale is a stationary store, and the website is merely a platform for booking alcohol. Although the transaction takes place on-line, the buyer must go to the store to collect the wine.

There are also shops that sell wine online and deliver the ordered alcohol directly to the place indicated by the consumer. However, access to such sales is limited, as registration of the buyer on the website is required in order to ascertain that the customer is an adult. Such a solution, however, is risky for the seller, since the shop could be considered non-compliant with the law and the permit to sell alcohol withdrawn by administrative authorities.

The alcohol industry is proposing a change of law in this respect, but no change has been approved yet.

Contracts for distribution of wine in Poland

Here are some tips for negotiating distribution contracts:

  • learn about the market. Although consumption of wine per capita in Poland is still one of the lowest in the EU, the competition on the Polish wine market is already quite strong. Entities entering the Polish market should therefore base their import on a solid business plan, recognize the target group and plan the distribution accordingly. Currently, the largest distribution channel for wine are supermarkets and discount stores (over 60%). The remaining market share belongs to specialist stores and the HoReCa sector (hotels and restaurants).

  • verify your business partner. Check if your business partner is duly registered in the register of entrepreneurs (KRS – for companies) or in the Central Register and Information on Business Activities (CEIDG – for individuals). Both databases are available via the Internet for free. Therefore you may easily find and verify the current status of your partner, check its registered address or tax identification number (NIP), verify arrangements on company representation and see if the company filed the required financial statements.

  • sign a contract also in Polish (bilingual version is recommended). It can be helpful in case of disclosure needs before competent authorities or a court.

  • be careful with advertising. Remember that advertising and promotion of wine in Poland is prohibited. It regards public distribution of trademarks of alcoholic beverages or graphic symbols associated with them, as well as names and graphic symbols of entrepreneurs producing alcoholic beverages. Obliging the distributor to conduct an active advertising campaign of the product may, therefore, not be feasible. It is recommended to consult a lawyer about such activities.

  • conferring exclusivity rights under certain conditions only. Please note that regardless of your market share, you cannot impose on your distributor any restriction regarding passive sales [i.e. sales in response to the requests from individual customers]. Such passive sales have to be permitted within the EU (cannot be limited or banned). When it comes to active sales, the producer can limit those sales only if the market share of the parties does not exceed the threshold of 30% of the total market share. Remember that restriction of competition may be subject to investigation by the Polish Competition Authority which may end up in an imposition of financial penalties.

  • check the quality in case of doubts. Unfortunately, there are producers on the market who sell counterfeit grape wines by adding water, sugar, alcohol or fruit extracts. In case of doubts verify the product as you may be held liable for its quality. A special Product Authentication Laboratory has been launched in Poland last year, where importers and producers can verify the authenticity and quality of imported wines.

  • think about the final cost. Foreign wine exporters may consider a bottling of the wine in Poland. The transport of bulk wine is much cheaper than the transport of wine in bottles, while in Poland modern bottling plants are available. Such cost saving may lower the price of the wine displayed on the store shelf, especially in the table wine segment, where the cost of transport constitutes an important element of the price. Don’t miss to consider the costs and the requirement to affix excise tax strip on the wine bottles.

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