UK retailer Sainsbury’s is trialling barrier-enhanced PET wine bottles across more than 450 of its stores as part of an ongoing programme aimed at developing more sustainable and energy efficient packaging formats.
Initially available in four variants, the 75cl bottles (pictured) are manufactured by Amcor PET Packaging using Constar’s Oxbar barrier technology and a screw cap closure. The bottle is styled to look like a traditional glass wine package, which Sainsbury’s claims is a first for the UK beverage sector.
The UK is the world’s biggest importer of wine and consumes around 1bn bottles a year. With a conventional glass bottle weighing anywhere between 300 and 800g, that amounts to some 500,000 tonnes of glass each year, according to the retailer.
The new PET bottle, available in clear and green versions, weighs 54g. It has been developed with help from UK government-funded WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), which estimates that replacing every wine bottle used in the UK with the lightest current glass designs could reduce CO2 emissions by 90,000 tonnes a year from manufacturing savings alone.
The bottles are being filled in the UK from bulk containers by Corby Bottlers. Sainsbury’s does not expect consumers to notice any reduction in quality in the packaged product, despite advising customers to consume the wine within three months.
“The shelf life of the wine in this packaging is expected to be at least 6 months,” a spokesperson for the retailer told PRW.com. “Our customers are concerned about recycling and carbon issues together with convenience, so the option of a lightweight unbreakable, recyclable wine bottle closed with a screwcap meets a lot of their requirements.”
Glass is perceived as a highly sustainable option by UK consumers because of the widespread recycling infrastructure. However, green glass has long presented a challenge for recyclers as the country imports twice as much as it manufactures, most in the form of wine packaging.
A number of alternative second life options have been developed for collected green glass cullet, including fibre insulation production, aggregate replacement and re-exporting to wine producing countries in Europe.
PET bottles are now collected for recycling by 92% of UK local authorities. WRAP hopes to use the Sainsbury’s trial – which will last at least three months – to determine consumer reaction to the PET packaging format, to understand how effective the recycling process is, and to measure the full environmental impact.
UPDATE: Luxist has pointed out just making the glass bottles thinner would be a better way to reduce carbon emissions. Also, switching over to plastic might be an easier solution simply because it’s cheaper to produce than glass (just make sure it’s recycled).
Another potential downside: the wines will not keep as well in the plastic bottles, and their shelf lives will be limited. According to Wine Society buyer Pierre Mansour, the flavor won’t be the same either: “Plastic is more absorbent and will absorb some of the flavour.”
Wine 2.0 is alive and breathing, and with it comes a plethora of companies working to build social networks around wine. All of these companies do one thing great - bring awareness of wines to more consumers. Moreover, the service they provide helps consumers make buying decisions based on peer reviews.
With so many brands and so little information or ability to test every one,we hope all these new communities thrive as they help consumers help each other bridge the gap to buy more wines (both on and offline). Additionally, if you are a winery in limited distribution or have winery only products - where are they going to go? To your website to buy the product. Wineries should support these communities strongly and even encourage your customers to comment on your wines at their favorite social network site.
There are so many of these companies launching that I only have time to name a few (if I left your company out, please comment):
How will these communities help wineries succeed?
- More brand awareness. Any consumer can put your wine up to review and the entire web can find it in multiple places. In fact, Gary V. at Corkd.com has done an incredible job and when you Google a particular wine, Corkd’s reviews tend to come up through his powerful SEO efforts usually in the top 10 and sometimes in the top 3.
- The power of recommendation has been STRIPPED from the traditional rating magazines and now is firmly placed in the hands of consumers. No longer are you dependent on one single reviewer, but the masses in aggregate will judge your product.
- Helping customers find your wine through powerful search (snooth.com), or through keywords (like food pairings), or through similar taste profiles (tastevine, bottlenotes).
- Interconnecting consumers who share similar tastes and organizing micro (and sometimes macro) audiences that communicate through word of mouth about your products.
- Community content to help consumers understand wine (winelog) and learn more so they try more after being educated.
- And much, much more (plus things we haven’t even thought about yet that will emerge as these tools become stronger and more prevalent through other larger social networks like facebook, myspace, flickr, and more).
My recommendation to you as wineries is engage with all of these. Pick your favorite and support it strongly. Use both your advertising dollars and recommend your customers to use it to rate your wines. Tell them make friends with other people who also like your wines. Give away your content to them en masse. Yes, give it away - all your tasting notes, all your recipe matches, jpg’s of your labels, all your wine information - just give it to them.
Become part of the community (but disclose that you are ITB - In the business). Use it as a tool to communicate one on one with people that like your wine. They are right there. Right in front of you. That is what is great about these communities, you have visibility into the people that rate your wine. This is the 101 of direct sales - finding your audience and communicating with them. You now have incredible visibility to who likes or dislikes your wine and a vehicle to communicate with them. Use it to convince the naysayers differently. If they hate tempranillo from CA and you make a great one (www.paradorcellars.com makes a killer one), engage with them and work to convince them. You may wine an advocate who will shout your name from the top of buildings.
Direct sales for wineries have their window now to engage and own the channel. You just have to turn your attention to it and it is yours for the taking.
Like most recommendations, word-of-mouth is still king. While most of us rely on critics for advice before making a purchase, the people we trust most are friends and people who are like us. With the advent of technology, the new word-of-mouth is web logs or blogs.
Gary Vayerchuk, Director of Operations at www.winerylibrary.com, spoke last week at the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) saying that the industry has followed too long a handful of critics whose opinion means nothing to the average wine drinker. Most people give more weight to other consumer’s opinions than critics any way. Take movies for example, critics may help guide movie goers initially, but its word-of-mouth that makes it a blockbuster or even a bomb.
According to Max Kalehoff, Vice President of Marketing for Buzzmetrics, 67% of consumers relied on word-of-mouth recommendations when making a purchase three decades ago; today that number has risen to 92%. He also said that 73% of people who shop online leave behind comments to share their experiences with other consumers. While everyone secretly hates a critic, deep down everyone secretly wants to be one.
Wineries are not immune to consumer feedback. In fact, 5 of the top 10 references to Santa Rosa’s Kendall Jackson wines on Google are consumer driven, according to Kalehoff. Instead of fearing consumer feedback and opinions, wineries should embrace them. Those who don’t embrace this new form of word-of-mouth (blogs) and engage customers with more familiar language will find themselves left in the cellar.
One great wine community is www.snooth.com.
One in four people in Britain eats a curry at least once a week. Couple this with British people’s growing love of wine and you’ll see why Ashraf Sharif’s business idea has been such a hit. Balti Wine, his simple range of five wines to complement spicy foods, is already revolutionising the drinking habits of curry lovers and the company looks set to grow from strength to strength.
“It’s no gimmick,” insists Sharif, 53, whose headquarters are in Newton Heath, Manchester. Indeed, it took four years of extensive research in collaboration with Manchester University’s food science department, and samples from around the globe, before Sharif and his advisers were happy with the grape selections.
“At first, Indian wines seemed the obvious answer, but we found people didn’t like them because they’re not used to them,” he says, explaining that the wines they eventually chose come from the Southern Hemisphere. The New World, he explains, tends to make wines that have an upfront fruity style that complements the spice in the food.
“These wines - three whites and two reds - each have a ‘chilli rating’ from one chilli to five, helping drinkers to choose which one is appropriate for their selected food,” he adds.
Since the company’s launch in 2004, Balti Wine has sold over 700,000 bottles, which retail at between £10 and £15 in restaurants. Sharif now supplies 65 per cent of the North-west’s Indian restaurants and six per cent of all Indian restaurants nationally. “Between 50 to 100 restaurants a day are taking on Balti Wines,” he says.
Having started off selling the wines from his car boot to restaurants in Manchester’s “curry mile”, Sharif now employs 21 staff and is currently in the process of getting wholesalers to stock the products so that restaurants and major multiples can buy the wine in bulk. His next step is to enable consumers to buy Balti Wines off the shelf, where he expects bottles to retail at around £5.99. To this end, new management has been ushered in to establish close links with major off licences and supermarkets such as Morrisons and Tesco.
Meanwhile, an injection of fresh capital from investors has enabled the company to open an office in the US, with a view to cracking the lucrative North American market. “Although Indian food is behind the UK in terms of popularity, it is growing astronomically,” says Sharif. Indeed, Balti Wine is already stocked in 13 US states.
The company has even been approached for stocks by cruise operators and airlines. Balti Wine has already secured a lucrative contract to supply wine to P&O cruises, and the company has started producing mini-bottles for airlines. “Our biggest company is Compass Trading and they supply 17 airports and nine docks around the country.”
Sharif’s entrepreneurial skills first showed signs of promise at the tender age of 13. “I sold knitwear in Manchester markets,” he says. Born into a poor family in Pakistan, he moved to the UK in 1960 where his father worked in Manchester textile mills. He learned to spot and create opportunities, though, and he used the skills he’d learned from the markets to set up a shop selling records while he was still at school.
It was a CCTV camera in this shop that gave him his first truly entrepreneurial idea. It was the early Seventies and home video machines were just becoming available. Video tapes were very expensive to buy and there were no Indian films on the TV. He borrowed heavily, invested in five machines, recorded films on to blank tapes and started to hire them out. By the Eighties he had 66 video rental shops throughout the North-west and a loyal clientele.However, technology moved on and competition from Sky meant that he had to close. It was his next business that saw his first foray into the drinks world with Xes, an aphrodisiacal drink with the slogan “Liquid pleasure in a bottle”. All set to be distributed globally, there was one problem - Red Bull. “It launched simultaneously and with its multi-million pound marketing campaign, I didn’t stand much of a chance,” says Sharif. “But it wasn’t all negative. I learned a lot about the drinks industry and the experience taught me the power of branding.”
Increasingly determined to use these skills to build a sustainable company, Sharif looked for a gap in the market and that’s when he hit upon the idea of wines to complement curries. “Beers that complement curries were already household names, but there was nothing when it came to wines,” he says. “I think there was a myth that wine doesn’t complement spicy food, but it’s a perfect complement to any kind of food. You just have to find the right wines for the right food and that’s what we did.”
The reviews have been promising. “Balti have really done their homework,” wrote Andrew Fraser, wine writer for Metro Newspapers. “We tried the Ugni Chardonnay, which was quite unpleasant to drink on its own, but then I had a plate full of the very spicy Lamb karachi and immediately it was transformed.”
Next year, the company is launching the Balti Wine Awards to recognise the best Balti restaurants in the UK and will be enlisting the support of Bollywood stars. “The restaurants have been good to us. They’ve kept us in business. To thank them for their support, we want to reward them,” says Sharif.
Indeed, restaurant owners were enthusiastic right from the start, he says. “A lot of them have no wine knowledge and they’re scared of the names of European wines, which mean nothing to them. Our idea was so simple - the three-chilli wine goes with vindaloo, the two-chilli wine goes with something milder, and so on.”
Balti Wine will soon be launching a rosé and sparkling wine, and the company is also looking into developing a non-alcoholic wine. “The image of curry eaters as lager louts who pile into Indian restaurants at 11pm is outdated,” insists Sharif. “Curry is as upmarket as any other cuisine now and people eating it appreciate good wine.”
By Kate Hilpern.
To the relief of many, a visit to a winery no longer has to resemble an agricultural outing with the mandatory trudging along dirt paths and in dark cellars listening to winegrowers go on and on about the terroir of their cru. Wineries – and not just in the newer wine-producing regions – are starting to wake up to today’s design sensibilities.
With winery buildings now often designed by famous architects, and with spectacular winery hotels, wineries with luxurious spas, cool wine-tasting bars, and imaginative wine shops popping up everywhere, the once stuffy wine culture is beginning to feel a bit more like something that even someone without a burning interest in either viti- or viniculture could enjoy.
Wineries are now full-blown brands, where everything from the buildings all the way down to the towels used in the winery’s spa reflects the brand story and the brand identity. This is not to say that the wine itself no longer matters. On the contrary. Most often, the more passionate the wine growing and the more distinctive the qualities of the wine, the more attention is paid to the overall brand. Of course, money plays a role here as well. If the wine is no good and nobody buys it, there isn’t likely to be a designer spa on the property.
An early example of a winery that took the winery visit idea a bit further is the Wilson Daniels estate winery Pegase di Domaine Clos in California’s Napa Valley. It’s often touted as a place of pilgrimage and “America’s first monument to wine as art.” Designed by Michael Graves and completed in 1987, the intriguing winery structure with its 20,000 square feet of caves now houses 1,000 works of art including Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.
A more recent example of winery-as-design-destination is the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marques de Riscal in the medieval Spanish village of Elciego. The startling Gehry building, located at one of the oldest vineyards in Spain, has 43 rooms, a cooking school and two elite restaurants. The spa offers specialized wine therapy treatments that with the help of the wine’s antioxidant properties are said to relieve stress and slow ageing.
So although we are duly impressed with those who are fluent with appellations, terroirs and crus, we must admit that we are more drawn to all things beautiful to the eye. So we’d love to see more of the world’s most amazing wineries, wine-tasting bars, wine showrooms and winery hotels. Let us know where they are, so that we can share the joy with the world. Send your tips to [email protected]
By Tuija Seipell.