UK unlikely to buy into paper wine bottle

The UK’s reluctance to take to alternative wine packaging does not bode well for GreenBottle’s paper container, writes James Boulton, creative director at design agency Claessens International.

The latest packaging innovation to be making headlines in the drinks industry is seemingly the paper wine bottle, which is set to be launched into UK retail outlets this year.

The Suffolk-based company that produces the container, GreenBottle, has already had great success with its paper milk containers – tripling sales of Trewithen Dairy milk in Asda stores in the south east of England since it became available in January 2011 – so in many respects the progression into the drinks business can be seen as a natural step.

The paper bottle will consist of a fully recyclable or compostable paper casing in the same shape as a standard wine bottle, this will contain a plastic liner, comparable to those used in bag-in-box wines – and utilises around a third of the plastic required to make a conventional plastic milk bottle.

After use the bottle can be easily separated so that the paper element can be disposed of separately to the plastic.

While there is no cost incentive to producers as the GreenBottle costs the same as a standard glass wine bottle to manufacture, there will be obvious savings in transportation: a GreenBottle weighs 55 grams, compared to about 300-600 grams for a glass equivalent.

GreenBottle is also non-breakable and, the company estimates, has a carbon footprint of 10% of that of a glass wine bottle.

Despite this, I’m not convinced the wine purchasing public in the UK will buy into this in the same way it has with GreenBottle’s previous foray into milk bottling.

A few years ago an Australian wine producer trialled the sale of its wine in a PET bottle through one UK supermarket chain.

While I don’t have access to the sales figures, nothing much more has been made of this, and most tellingly, you’d be very hard pushed to find a PET wine bottle now.

We have worked with wine brands in other countries to produce packaging that moves away from the traditional glass bottle, most notably in Canada where tetra packs are a normal sight on-shelf and in Italy where PET is common at the lower end of the wine market.

Also in Scandinavia it is common to see spirits and mix drinks in tetra packs and bags in boxes, and in other countries PET packaging for beer is relatively common.

Often this is down to lifestyle choices and how the various products are consumed – so for example if the product is being sold in an area where a lot of boating takes place then wine in a bag or in a box is likely to be more popular.

Aside from the success of wine in a box, the UK wine market particularly has been much more resistant to moving away from glass bottles. Image-wise it is a more difficult fit and just doesn’t fit into the lifestyle of people who are consuming the product.

There is still a competitive advantage to be had from using glass bottles, particularly in the wine sector where look and feel are intrinsically linked with perception of quality and winemaking knowledge passed down through generations.

Any move away from this could be seen as devaluing a brand and with the wine market already struggling to guide drinkers through the myriad of choice currently available and the failure of other repackaging attempts in the UK market, it will take a brave brand to make the first foray into this new packaging.

While there are undeniable sustainability benefits associated with moving to new bottle packaging such as this, that alone is unlikely to be enough to convince the UK’s wine buying public.

While this may have an impact on price it is likely to take strong and powerful branding to get over the perceptions around quality that a move away from glass bottles will have on the market.

On top of this, we lose sight of the fact that until relatively recently, glass was considered the ultimate recycleable container.


4 Responses to “UK unlikely to buy into paper wine bottle”

  1. James, while I share some reservations about the paper bottle (I don’t like the fact that it needs to be broken apart to remove the inner liner before recycling), I think it is a valuable addition to the packaging debate. And I have to correct you re PET. Our 1-litre PET bottles of Greener Planet Sustainable wine has just been re-listed by Asda and is doing well in the Netherlands and Finland. Marks & Spencer also have their Mandeville in PET. These all have the same weight benefits as the paper bottles (55g) and are more easily recycled into t-shirts, fleeces, carpets and car parts.
    The experience with screwcaps suggests that UK consumers will probably take what they are given by UK retailers provided the price and brand are right. The challenge lies in persuading the gatekeepers to adopt new forms of packaging.

  2. Wine in paper?

    Is that like chips in a bottle?

    The Sediment Blog

  3. Riccardo Margheri says:

    I live in Italy, I am an Italian wine lover and sommelier and I have NEVER seen a PET bottle of wine on the shelves. PET is quite usually for water, fruit juices, soft drinks, etc., NOT for wine. This doesn’t exclude that might be possible to find some PET wine around, but definitely it is not normal. Regards. Riccardo Margheri

  4. Running on Empty – Paper (or Plastics?) Wine Bottle Fails to Fill Glass’s Shoes

    Glass is now more than ever “the ultimate recyclable and recycled” material, made from sand and other naturally occurring raw materials. It is produced in local glass factories, near to where it will be filled. Glass is also 100% and infinitely recyclable in an effective local bottle-to-bottle system. And talking about weight, glass is now much lighter and stronger than it was 20 years ago. New glass bottles weigh about 300 g, a saving of 40% in just two decades, and the industry is working hard to make them even lighter and stronger than ever before.

    Not less important glass wine bottles do not need plastic linings to keep their contents safe and drinkable. Unlike plastics, glass does not react with the contents of the bottle and no substances are leached into the wine. And in glass, the wine can stay fresh for many decades. A study by the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV) in Bordeaux, France, found that the flavour and chemical composition of white wine changed within six months of being packed into single- and multi-layer PET bottles, or a bag-in-a-box. In glass bottles, wine actually tastes like wine, not a chemistry experiment.

    There’s also the matter of style. Can you really see yourself ordering wine in a paper bottle at a restaurant? Perhaps you can start by asking for plastic glasses next time you go out to see how it will feel. Glass adds class!
    A recent independent survey of more than 8,000 consumers across 17 European countries found that 74% prefer glass as their packaging material (InSites, 2010). A clear majority (65%) choose glass because it best preserves the taste of the food or beverage it contains. And for special occasion beverages, 79% of respondents choose glass. This is one of the main reasons why wine producers pack their vintages in glass bottles.

    Do you want to know more about glass and what consumers think about? Just go on

    A Friend of Glass

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Rioja Masters 2019

Deadline : 1st August 2019

Champagne Masters 2019

Deadline : 12th August 2019

Click to view more

The Global Organic Masters 2019

View Results

Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2019

View Results

Click to view more