If you were tasked with re-inventing the classic wine bottle, glass and round in shape, what would you come up with?
Specifications would require it to be 40% more space efficient and made of a material that is 87% lighter than glass, and is entirely recycled.
Oh, and did I forget, it needs to be able to store the same amount of wine as the bottle you will pluck from a supermarket shelf to have dinner with later (75cl). Oh, and fit through a letter box.
I am not sure about you, but I am stumped.
According to the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA), the UK wine industry is worth almost £20bn in economic activity to Britain, supports nearly 270,000 jobs and is the sixth largest wine market in the world. It is safe to say the industry is an extremely important one, and any breakthrough innovation could be worth billions.
Figures for food and drink exports even hit a record high of £10.6bn in the first half of 2018, this up 4% compared to the previous year. The sector is in fact, by far, the largest in British manufacturing.
Anyway, back to the task in hand. I am still as stumped as you are, until I came across Garçon Wines.
Innovation and invention in wine packaging
It is important to mention that invention and innovation within wine packaging is rare. Aside from the screw cap and bag in a box wine, which both came in the mid-20th century, there has been no other revolutionary innovations in wine packaging.
“We wanted to deliver wine into millennial drinkers homes in urban centres.” CEO of Garçon Wines, Santiago Navarro tells me in their Covent Garden HQ.
“Those drinkers tend to not be home or not be willing to wait around for deliveries, they are busy socialising and working, so we saw that as a problem and opportunity.
“We then had a eureka moment, which was let’s flatten the round bottle. It will remain appealing aesthetically and it is something we would proudly place on our own dining table,” he adds.
Flatten a round bottle. Ingenious. Flatten it enough to fit it through a mailbox, for the fundamental basic that is next-day delivery, but big enough to still fit a whole bottle of the liquid in.
The current design of the bottle shape is based on the classic Bordeaux shape, with the company planning to produce a flat bottle based on the Burgundy shape too. During the design period, Navarro also knew the packaging needed to be strong, light and sustainable to keep up with current market trends.
The material, the globally patented 63 gram bottle is made from, is 100% post-consumer recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) sourced from Europe. Sustainability is something Navarro explains was not an “add on like in many businesses”, but “part of the DNA of what we do. We wanted to raise the bar.”
Why not glass? Navarro explains that glass is not necessarily environmentally friendly. This he believes is because of the unnecessary weight glass adds in the supply chain.
Because it is plastic and not glass, does this impact its shelf life? The team has also included an “oxygen scavenger” featuring both active scavenging and passive barrier technology to give bottles a reportedly much longer shelf life than other wine packaging solutions.
Designing the bottle
The first prototype of the flat bottle was made in China. However, the Chinese company Garçon Wines were working with were unable to verify that the plastic used was of European Standards and FDA approved. As wine is a product to be consumed, Navarro fervently explains that he could not take that risk.
With that in mind, he has partnered with RPC M&H Plastics, an experienced plastics manufacturer in Suffolk to create the bottles, these bottles will then also be filled in the UK. The wine itself, is from different regions of the world.
Navarro said: “The bottle is very technically complex, in order to achieve a bottle that is this ratio [width to depth] is very hard to create in the mechanism used.
“There are two ways to produce a plastic bottle, extrusion blow molding or injection stretch blow molding. The latter produces a much more high quality product, but you have a challenge within the ratios that are possible. It took us a long time, but we got the product finalised in April of this year, we have only be shipping products for the last couple of months.”
It is difficult because when the plastic is blown in the mold, if it cools on the narrower end too quickly, you don’t get the expansion on that side, so Garçon Wines have had to work out a way to problem solve this.
The bottles are also coloured plastic. This is, Navarro explains, because when you use recycled plastic the outcome is a cloudier material, something potentially off-putting to consumers.
Colouring the bottles results in this being disguised. Consumers do want to buy plastic bottles, but there is a lack of awareness of the difference between virgin and recycled polymers and the difference in impact on the environment, this means a lot of packaging is created using virgin plastic.
Recycled plastic is a necessity
Only 10% of plastic in the UK is actually recycled, the other 90% finds its way into landfills, is incinerated or worse, ends up in the environment; creating new virgin polymers is very harmful to the environment, and this is why we must recycle polymers.
Plastic is a fantastic material for its properties; light, flexible, durable and cheap. If we can use recycled polymers that can then be recycled or reused again, then is that not the perfect solution?
Navarro explains that the hope for the bottle is to extend its life-cycle, meaning that every bottle can be broken down and remade in to many more.
He concludes: “The need for us to have packaging to better fit our environment is crucial. The time to change, is now.”