Taking the lid off its expansion plans, Supreme Corq Inc. has opened a facility in Belgium and expanded its headquarters to meet growing customer demand for plastic wine closures.
The company, a leading maker of a plastic substitute for wine corks, opened its first European facility in Tournal, Belgium, in April and just leased a second building near its headquarters in Kent, Wash., said spokeswoman Joyce Steers-Greget.
The plastic cork business has grown quickly in the 12 years that Supreme Corq has been operating, Steers-Greget said. The business has moved globally, not only to Europe but also to South America and Australia, which has led the company to consider expanding even more, she said.
``We have to be closer to customers so we can service their needs better,'' Steers-Greget said. ``Given the large amount of wine produced in Germany, France, Italy and Spain, we needed to be near those wine-producing regions. Belgium puts us in the middle of Europe and gives us water access [for shipping products].''
The company's patented technology is used to injection mold thermoplastic elastomer closures. Worldwide, 8-10 percent of all wine bottles use food-grade synthetic closures, and the company supplies more than 1,200 wineries and distilleries, Steers-Greget said.
The 20,000-square-foot Belgium facility prints and coast closures shipped from the United States, Steers-Greget said. That finishing work includes a proprietary, high-resolution process to print labels and promotional material on the bottle tops. A food-grade silicone, similar to what is used for wine corks made of tree bark, coats the closures.
Eventually, possibly in the next one or two years, the company plans to mold synthetic closures at the Belgium plant, Steers-Greget said. For now, the site employs about 20.
In Kent, the new plant is located about a mile from the company's existing production facility. The plant is about the same size as the first location, and it serves as an administrative office and warehousing facility. The new location also has a technical center to develop new closures, Steers-Greget said.
``We are developing new properties and combinations of [TPE] materials to make our products better,'' she said. ``Today, [synthetic corks] are much better than they were five years ago, and we're learning that different combinations of materials work well in different scenarios.''
The two Kent plants combined have 60,000 square feet of space and employ about 50, Steers-Greget said.
Supreme Corq also is considering future plants in South America or Australia, where it now ships closures, she said. Those plans could be finalized this year, she added.