Australia's Southcorp Holdings Ltd. has launched a new injection molded polyethylene wine cork that it claims could generate annual worldwide sales of A$100 million (US$77.9 million).
Barry Watts, executive general manager of Melbourne-based Southcorp Packaging, said the cork is the result of four years' discussion and research with sister company Southcorp Wines. Both companies are units of Adelaide, Australia-based Southcorp Holdings, which also has operations in water heaters and appliances.
The cork was developed at Southcorp Packaging's Fielding plant in New Zealand and tested in 250,000 bottles of Southcorp's Lindemans Cawarra wine in Australia.
Watts said an accompanying survey showed 92 percent of consumers who used the plastic cork believed it was equal to or better than natural cork.
Southcorp Packaging has secured an initial order of 1 million corks from Southcorp Wines. The corks will be used for Southcorp wines distributed in Australia and exported to the United Kingdom. The cork, called Aegis, has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Southcorp Packaging plans to start production soon at its Australian and North American plants.
Southcorp's Atlanta-based North American Packaging Corp. operates 12 plastic packaging plants in North America. Graham Kraehe, Southcorp Holdings managing director, said Aegis will be marketed to winemakers in Australia, Europe, North America, South America and South Africa.
He said the product provides consistent insertion, seal and extraction qualities, looks and feels like natural cork, can be run on existing bottling lines and can be removed with standard corkscrews. While there are other plastic corks on the market, Kraehe claims Aegis is the most competitively priced product and offers a greater level of protection against leakage and oxidation.
He said the international wine industry increasingly has called for new cork development to reduce wine taint caused by inconsistent cork grades.
Southcorp claims that as many as 1.4 billion of the 22 billion bottles of wine produced internationally each year are affected by cork taint. The highest incidence is in the lower-priced wine market, where bottles regularly are sealed with corks made from glued cork particles.
Kraehe said Aegis initially will target the commercial wine market, but he believes the product also holds potential in premium wines.