By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
Editor’s Note: O-I Packaging Solutions and Amorim Cork are one of the Wine Industry Network’s 2016 WINnovation Award winners for excellence in wine industry innovation.
There’s no denying the romance of opening a bottle of wine containing a cork. Peeling back the foil top, inserting the corkscrew, twisting, pulling and then hearing that satisfying pop as the cork comes loose, releasing the perfume of the wine’s aromatics with its promises of good things to come. Ah, yes.
But, there are also the stubborn corks that refuse to budge, and those that crumble or break during the struggle. Worse, there’s that ultimate, frustrating moment when you have the perfect bottle of wine in hand, but no opener in sight to access it, and you’re kicking yourself for not buying a screw cap version of your favorite beverage.
Fortunately for wine consumers everywhere, two companies have come together to produce an innovation known as Helix, a unique, ergonomically-designed cork and glass packaging solution that marries the benefits of traditional cork with user-friendly, re-sealable convenience.
The Helix combines a grooved cork from Amorim, one of the world’s largest producers of cork products, with a matching, threaded bottleneck from O-I, one of the world’s leading glass bottle manufacturers. Their Helix closure allows the consumer to easily open and reseal the bottle by hand, creating an airtight barrier with a simple twist of the wrist. No corkscrew needed, no perceived loss of prestige from that tin screw cap. Voila!
Like all things genius, this deceptively simple solution is the product of trial and error, combined with years of hard-won experience.
“It’s been a long process to get this done,” confirms Helix Product Manager Enrique Morante. “We knew from our research consumers prefer cork.”
“If you’ve been at a white tablecloth restaurant, natural cork not only denotes quality, but provides another point of interaction with a brand,” adds Sean Gallagher, Vice President of Wine Sales for O-I. “Consumers love cork, but the marketplace has long recognized the need for convenience.”
“Helix keeps that tradition, but adds functionality,” further agrees Morante. “Tests have shown that Helix stands out on the shelf and that novelty and ease of use can be the deciding factor when purchasing a bottle of wine. A few of our customers in Europe have been using the innovation for the last two years. The results have been outstanding.”
So outstanding, in fact, that customers are lining up for new orders as the Helix closure begins its debut across North America.
“It’s pretty exciting when you’ve come up with something new and your customer calls you asking how soon you can get it to market,” Gallagher reports.
“And it’s not just what we are saying,” insists Morante. “Bronco (Wine Company) has already featured the Helix on its Red Truck® brand. Another leading winery is about to launch with Helix. We think that now is the right time for wineries to get on board. It’s going to make an impact for sure.”
Anticipating customer demand and breaking ground in new markets is rarely an accident of fate. As is the case with this collaboration between Amorim and O-I, such marketplace innovation is the result of decades of industry experience, backed by a company culture that values solid research and development.
“With more than 2,100 active patents and our one of a kind Innovation Center where new processes, systems and products are tested, O-I is committed to innovation,” Morante points out. “It’s all about creating value for our customers.”
“The partnership with Amorim is about working hand-in-hand, not as separate pieces but as a system,” describes Gallagher. “The two organizations are similar. They are market leaders in their respective categories, creating natural products that are recyclable, sustainable. There are so many parallels between them on so many levels.”
All indicators point to success for the Helix, which continues to test positively with diverse global focus groups and is competitively priced within the wine brand marketplace.
According to Morante, the true benefit of the product is the value it brings across all sectors of the supply, demand and distribution channels.
“Consumers recognize value because it makes their lives easier, while preserving the (wine) ritual,” Morante explains. “Retailers recognize value because it brings innovation to the category. It appeals to millennials, so that opens up shelf space. Wineries recognize value because it will drive consumer preference toward their brand, and even those willing to pay a premium for innovation.
“We think Helix is a home run.”