Amcor PET Packaging sees opportunity in every bottle of merlot, chardonnay, riesling and pinot grigio.
``As growth in carbonated soft drinks and water begins to slow, we're looking for other opportunities, and we've started to pursue wine,'' Amcor PET wine and spirits account manager Lynne Brophy said during the Packaging Conference, Feb. 4-6 in Las Vegas.
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Amcor PET - a unit of Australian packaging giant Amcor Ltd. - commercialized wine sold under the Little Penguin and Wolf Blass labels in Australia in 2006. The products are now available in Canada and the United Kingdom. Both brands are made by Foster's Wine Estates, an Australian winemaker.
North America now is a target, since wine consumption in the region continues to rise at a faster rate than beer and spirits, on pace to hit the 4 billion unit mark by 2012. Millennials - defined as consumers born between 1980 and 1999 - tend to drink more wine than those born in Generation X or during the baby boom, Brophy said.
``A lot of young consumers have never had a carbonated soft drink in a glass bottle,'' she said. ``With changing demographics, people are more accepting of new packaging. PET has a better carbon footprint than glass and would give the wine market access to other venues, like concerts, beaches and poolside.''
Winemakers can differentiate PET bottles through color and design, and PET has major weight advantages vs. glass, Brophy added. A 750-milliliter glass bottle - the standard wine bottle size - weighs 500 grams, or 1,100 pounds per 1,000 bottles. By comparison, a 750-ml PET bottle tips the scales at only 54 grams, or 121 pounds per 1,000.
In shipping, that means a standard truck can carry more than 20,000 PET wine bottles, but less than 13,000 glass wine bottles, resulting in fewer trucks on the road and a cash savings of 34 cents per case, according to Brophy.
Although Brophy admitted that a number of ``traditionalists'' don't like the idea of wine in plastic - citing tradition over changing demographics - the market may have the final say. Wine in plastic bottles already has passed up bag-in-box as alternate wine packaging. And PET previously had absorbed the market for 187-ml wine bottles, the so-called ``airline size.''
Arbor Mist Winery of Canandaigua, N.Y., has offered its fruit wine in 375-ml PET bottles since 2003, while in Australia and New Zealand, many wine caps and closures already are made from PET, replacing traditional cork. Sirromet Wines Pty. Ltd. of Brisbane, Australia, plans to market its chardonnay and cabernet merlot in 1-liter PET bottles this year. The winery already offers those varieties in 6.3-ounce PET bottles.
As the market for wine in plastic grows, Brophy said that the industry may need to consider how much barrier protection is needed in PET wine bottles. Most bottles currently have 10-12 months of barrier protection, but Amcor research has shown that 90 percent of table wine is consumed within a week of being purchased.
``Initially, PET in wine was a niche market for convenience and shatterproofing,'' Brophy said. ``But we believe it's an attractive value proposition to the entire industry.''
Amcor PET ranks as North America's second-largest blow molder with almost $1.8 billion in annual sales, according to a Plastics News industry ranking. Globally, Melbourne, Australia-based Amcor Ltd. derives about one-third of its $9 billion sales total from PET products, making PET its largest single segment.
The firm employs 24,000 at 217 plants and claims to be the world's second-largest packaging company, trailing only Tetra Pak Group of Geneva.