Diam launches agglomerated cork with plant-based binderBy Patrick Schmitt
Diam has launched a new agglomerated cork that uses a plant-based binder and beeswax filler in place of polyurethane glue and plastic microparticles.
Called Origine by Diam, the new closure incorporates a beeswax emulsion and a binder composed of 100% vegetable polyols, and was officially launched in France yesterday.
Speaking to the drinks business on Monday this week, ahead of the big unveiling at Diam’s factory in the southern French town of Céret yesterday, sales director Bruno de Saizieu said that the closure innovation was driven by a demand from winemakers for a more “natural” agglomerated closure.
Although he said that the traditional Diam closure, which uses acrylate microparticles to fill the tiny air spaces in the agglomerated closure, along with a polyurethane glue to bind the ground cork, was “approved by all the regulations”, he added that “some wanted more naturalité”.
Explaining the constituents of the closure, he said that every agglomerated cork has three parts: the cork, the binder and microparticles, adding that while the cork hasn’t changed, the binder in the Origine is now made from 100% vegetable polyols, while the microparticles are created from beeswax.
Continuing, he stressed that the new closure was not designed to replace the existing Diam agglomerated corks, but to add to the range of products from the company, as well as meet a specific desire for a “more natural” solution. Indeed, he stated, “We believe that in the future the demand will be bigger for natural products.”
When asked by db about the performance of the new agglomerated cork, Bruno said that Origine’s elasticity is the same as the standard Diam closure, because the amount and type of cork used in the closure is identical.
As for the oxygen transmission rate (OTR) of the new product, this too is unaffected by the use of different materials – and Origine can be bought as either a Diam 10 and Diam 30 – the numbers referring to the length of time the closure is guaranteed for, which is this case is either 10 or 30 years (and the latter comes with a ‘very low permeability characteristics, and is ‘particularly suited to wines for laying-down’ according to Diam’s marketing material).
“The microfiller is used to avoid the any liquid getting inside the cork, and now we use beeswax [in place of plastic polymers], but the result is the same – although it’s much more expensive,” said Bruno.
Although Origine by Diam was officially launched to the international press yesterday, the closure has already been shown to wine producers in the US and France this year, and Bruno told db that the take-up for the new product was remarkable.
“In two weeks we have already had orders of more than one million [units], and so I expect, in the first year, we will probably sell 5m,” he said of the Origine agglomerated cork, adding, “I am surprised at how fast it has sold.”
Due to the higher cost of the “natural” materials used in the agglomerated cork, Origine is around 33% more expensive than its equivalent using the standard binder and microfiller, with Bruno telling db that if the average price for 30,000 Diam 10 corks was approximately €300, then the same number of Origine stoppers would cost €400.
He then said that “the next step” for the company was to create an agglomerated cork for sparkling wine using the same “natural” materials.
He also strenuously denied the suggestion by db that the creation of Origine had been motivated by claims that the plastic-based glues in agglomerated corks were capable of leaching potentially carcinogenic substances into wine.
“There is no migration of materials from the glue into the wine,” he stated, referring to the standard Diam stoppers.
Origine by Diam is not the first agglomerated cork to do away with plastic-based glue.
Launched earlier this year was Sughera from Labrenta, which claims to be “the first [agglomerated] cork closure with no glue at all”.
According to Labrenta’s sales and marketing manager Riccardo Tiso, the binding agent is a “secret”, but he told db that the cork granules are held together by a “polymer used in bio-medicine that guarantees the durability of the closure and is much more pure than glue.”
Meanwhile, in 2013, Synthetic closure specialist Nomacorc launched a stopper part-made from plant-based biopolymers to meet a demand from winemakers for a closure that offered some of the environmental benefits of natural cork, but the consistency of a synthetic product, according to Jeff Slater, global director of marketing at Nomacorc.
Finally, it should be noted that the cork used for Origine by Diam goes through the same patented Diamant process as Diam agglomerated corks, which sees the finely-milled cork granules treated with extremely hot, pressurised liquid carbon dioxide to remove as many as 150 different molecules in the natural material, including TCA, according to Bruno.
However, such an energy-intensive process does mean that the carbon footprint of a Diam agglomerated cork is higher than even a screwcap closure, which, due to the aluminium used in its creation, produces more than six times as much carbon dioxide during its manufacture than a whole natural cork.