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A last thought on PET vs glass wine bottles

I read a press release on the news aggregator WineTimes, about the new release of Distell’s Obikwa range. Apparently Obikwa is “the fun loving wine range loved by many South Africans and abroad”.

Ok.

Ultra light weight glass?

The press statement went on to describe the decision by Distell to adopt the new ultra light weight 350g bottle from South African glass monopoly Consol. This is 100g lighter than the standard light weight bottle used by many in the industry.

It waxed lyrical about this green initiative, with the environment and the wines’ carbon footprint being the key argument in favour of the change. This is fair enough considering the weight saving in the packaging, and they can’t be faulted for their efforts.

Soft bottle PET?

However this change has happened just weeks after Backsberg announced the launch of their Tread Lightly range, becoming the first South African wine producer to adopt PET bottles on a commercial scale.

Backsberg has a history of environmental awareness and innovation in wine, being the first SA carbon neutral producer. Their PET bottle weighs just 50g and the motivation offered for their change is along the same lines as the environmental argument that Distell offers for Obikwa.  Of course when it comes down to a purely weight related argument, Simon Back and his Backsberg team have significantly higher ground. About 300 grams worth.

But this is the wine industry, so there is never only one argument!

I am not going into the merits of PET vs glass here, as that debate has been had. However, I would like to pick up on two points.

Firstly, and this is something that has not really been mentioned as yet, how do the costs of the bottles vary from the ‘normal’ glass bottles? I understand that the ultra light weight bottle costs a couple of South African cents less than the 450g bottle. This may not sound like much, but it is very significant margin fodder for a huge brand like Obikwa who apparently are not actually sure how many bottles of the stuff they produce. I am not sure on the prices of the PET. Perhaps Backsberg can fill us in?

Secondly, the point that I am more interested in considering. Would you as a wine consumer rather prefer a cheap looking glass bottle (and let’s be honest, the lack of a punt and odd shoulder does look cheap) or a PET bottle that looks slick by plastic standards, but is still essentially a plastic bottle for your vino? The difference in price created by the positioning of the Backsberg brand versus the Obikwa brand, means that they will not be directly competing for consumers attention, so a sales volume comparison is moot. However it is likely that a situation like this will emerge in the near future.

So, if it were to come down to a purely packaging choice, what bottle would you want to be pouring from?

5 Responses to “A last thought on PET vs glass wine bottles”

  1. Brett says:

    Chris
    Your “last thought” reminds me of my “last point” when arguing with my wife – it never is 🙂 Yours is a good read though.
    The Month has run a number of short and informative articles on PET wine bottles and in the September edition Jim Waite reviews the new offering from Backsberg – with some interesting comments (I’d say more but the guy has a belly and a wicked right, so I’ll leave it at that), I’ll ask him to include a comment on the actual bottle price.
    Try http://www.themonth.co.za and search for “pet”. March, June and August are the relevant editions.
    Cheers, Brett

  2. Warren says:

    I can see it going in stages. Lightweight glass is an acceptable step, especially in lower-priced wines. When this becomes more the norm than the exception then PET would probably be OK. At the moment the jump from normal glass to PET seems “a bridge too far”.

  3. I have spent 21 years working in the wine trade and I can not believe how positive consumers have been to the change from cork to stelvin closure. I have just lauched a business with an upgrade of monolayered pet called Multi layered pet (MLP) .The packaging has taken 3 years to develop and has had an immediate consumer acceptence ..Why ? Because consumers want packaging that is practical and now that MLP wines look and taste as good as traditional bottles I feel they will move to this new format in bigger numbers than moved to Stelvin. Marks and Spencers,the Sytembolaget in sweden and over 40 world airlines think so too. Barry

  4. Brian Dawes says:

    I agree – oh and why is is so difficlut to get a price check

  5. Have you tried the Backsberg a year later from the PET bottle… how did it hold up?

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