Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Sustainable packaging for a more comprehensive wine business

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—Barbara Barrielle Eco-friendly packaging engages consumers, improves brand image, and is simply better for the environment.

During Wine Industry Network’s newest conference, packXplore, Jessice Baum, director of regenerative development and sustainability for Fetzer Vineyards, Baum reiterated Fetzer Company’s original, 1968 motto: “What is good for the earth is good for the grape.” That sentiment is just as important today. If not more, given the current climate crisis.

In the wine industry, packaging is vital for the conservation of a quality product, for brands to distinguish themselves in the consumer market, and as a way to promote a more sustainable culture. 

Baum explained how Fetzer is moving from sustainable to regenerative agriculture and is halfway to reaching their 100% renewable energy goal by 2030. Part of that goal is improving the packaging life cycle: extraction of raw materials, melting used materials to make glass, improving bottle transportation methods, as well as the distribution to—and education of—the end consumer.

Package Lifecycle

As Baum says, it’s a “choice to reuse or end the life cycle. cradle to cradle or cradle to grave, where the end of life is a landfill. Glass is endlessly recyclable, never degrades and reduces use of raw materials.”

Last year Fetzer underwent a packaging “refresh.” They found a supplier closer to the manufacturing site (decreasing transportation-induced greenhouse gas emissions), redesigned a lighter bottle design, and changed capsules and labels to more eco-friendly materials.

Fetzer ‘refresh’

“Fetzer’s goal is to taste good and be good,” said Baum. “The new packaging reduces weight by 14.8%, creates a 15.7% reduction in our carbon footprint and an 11% reduction in transportation emissions.” Baum points out that it is critical to communicate and educate consumers that lighter and more sustainable equates to quality and responsibility.

Lucy Pierce is project coordinator for Green Blue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a group of 500 members including suppliers, government agencies, and manufacturers, among other businesses. Pierce also spoke about the life cycle of packaging and how consumers can become more sustainable. 

“Things to consider are where the raw materials are sourced and is this sourcing responsible,” Price said. For example, Price noted that the glass used to manufacture Absolut Vodka bottles (supplied by Ardagh Group) is made from 97% recycled material—recycled glass takes lower heat to produce than that produced with new, raw materials.

Absolut uses their closest glass supplier, reducing transportation energy. 

California, Pierce noted, recycles about 54% of its packaged goods—which, she commented, is a pretty decent number. However, while the most valuable packaging to recyclers includes common wine package types such as aluminum cans, or bottles, alterations to these formats (typically for marketing purposes), such as shrink sleeves, make them much less reusable.

US Glass Infrastructure at a glance

“What is the job we hire packaging to do?” askes Pierce. “It is for protection and preservation, but we need to find the ‘sweet spot.’ … Design for recovery. Create what you’d like to buy back. Recycling isn’t black and white, and marketing designs can be deterrents to the process.”

Barbara Barrielle

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Barbara Barrielle was a longtime publicist in sports and wine before going to the other side as a wine, travel and entertainment writer. She also produces films and has a documentary “Crushed: Climate Change and the Wine Country Fires” releasing in 2021. Current publications Barbara writes for are AARP Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life, East Hampton Star, Napa Valley Register, Oregon Wine Press as well as Wine Industry Advisor. She lives in Healdsburg, travels extensively and studies wine and languages.

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