PACKAGING: PET Wine Bottle Breakthrough
Recent Western Cape Business News
A lower carbon footprint, being keenly cost competitive in production and providing huge savings in distribution and retailing are some of the compelling reasons why Mondipak Atlantis (MPA) is taking on the wine market with its RAPPET bottles, aiming to achieve a sizeable share in a packaging segment which traditionally has been dominated by glass.
Importantly, MPA has also succeeded to give its multi-layer PET bottles the same transparency and aesthetic appeal as glass.
And it seems that MPA is on to a winning recipe. One of the Western Cape’s most esteemed wine estates – Backsberg near Paarl – has become the first South African winery to bottle certified wine in these PET bottles.
The Tread Lightly range, conceptualised in collaboration with Pick n Pay, has vintages, wine of origin certification and varietal wines, making it clear that they didn’t want to put a cheap product in PET. Other retailers, such as Woolworths, Checkers end Spar have followed suite with similar packaging for some of their high-quality wine suppliers.
MPA sales manager Louis Moodie says the new product’s market acceptance is gaining momentum because the bottles weigh considerably less and take up less space than glass bottles. “They weigh around 50g, compared to glass at around 400g a bottle. What’s more, they can’t break!”, Moodie says. Also, while plastic is often perceived as a pollutant, these bottles are fully recyclable.
When Backsberg launched its Tread Lightly wine range in PET July ast year, there were some concerns about the appeal of wine in a PET bottle. However, the wine-drinking public and industry experts have quickly dispelled these worries by giving a huge ‘thumbs up’ for Tread Lightly Sauvignon Blanc, which has been voted joint second best white wine on show at the most recent Cape Town RMB WineX. It also won a silver medal at the Michelangelo Awards.
In introducing this new product to the market, MPA worked closely with European suppliers. When the team started researching enhanced barrier bottles to provide extended shelf life for wine, their investigations led to Artenius PET Packaging Europe and closure maker Novembal. Technology agreements were signed with both companies.
The end result is a multi-layer PET bottle that blocks oxygen from outside – essential for wine storage – and scavenges the oxygen dissolved in wine and caught in the head space.
“We have a proven two-year shelf life for our 750ml bottle. The secret is the use of Artenius’ polyamide barrier technology, which functions as both a barrier to oxygen ingress and as scavenger”, Moodie explains.
He predicts that a major benefit to the wine industry will be the PET bottle’s smaller carbon footprint because of its reduced weight and lesser diameter.
“This translates into 36% more product that can be transported for the same container cost”, Moodie says. “There are also significant savings in transportation costs and breakages”.
While the bottle looks like glass and holds the same volume as a standard glass bottle, its smaller dimensions mean that six or 12-bottle cartons are smaller too, another cost saving.
There can be little doubt that PET bottles make economic and environmental sense. A shelf life of at least two years is guaranteed during which the wine’s quality won’t alter. That’s long enough since research shows that 80% of wines worldwide are drunk within two years of bottling (and within 48 to 72 hours of purchase in South Africa).
In Europe the carbon emission from cradle to grave for a fresh-material PET bottle is 53g carbon equivalent/kg (eq C/kg). For a glass bottle with 50% recycled material (the average in South African wine bottles is about 32%) over the same lifespan it is 89g eq C/kg.
Despite these facts, overcoming consumer misconceptions may still be an initial stumbling block. However, Moodie believes that the strong environmental plus points will soon sink home. Market research in the UK shows that consumers are particularly attracted to the weight saving and unbreakability aspects with many saying they would choose PET over glass if they were buying wine for an outdoor event. Another aspect of the PET pack that doesn’t seem to distract from its appeal is the screw closure.
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