The vast majority of all wines should be packaged in PET. Here’s why.
By Jonathan Jarman
In an industry steeped in tradition, change does not come easy. This is especially true when it comes to wine and wine packaging.
In the face of ongoing environmental concerns, a growing number of media stories have cited the need for our industry to find a more sustainable package solution. And the call is validated by consumer demands.
A recent survey from global decision intelligence company Morning Consult showed that the food and beverage industry is second, behind only the automotive industry, when it comes to consumers looking for sustainability. This makes sense, as consumers interact with food — and food packaging — on a daily basis, which increases consumer awareness of the environmental impact of this category.
And while 7 in 10 U.S. adults would consider purchasing from a food and beverage brand that prioritizes sustainability, 1 in 4 said they don’t know what makes a product sustainable. When pressed to share what it means for a food or beverage brand to be sustainable, a product’s packaging was the second most common response from consumers.
The first was, “I don’t know.”
PET is the answer
This desire by consumers to do the right thing — to look for packaging that is best for our environment — can create both opportunity and confusion. It also creates a situation where it’s time to be honest. We must provide consumers the right packaging for the right situation. And the majority of the time, that packaging is going to be plastic.
Specifically, Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.
Mischaracterized as unsustainable and environmentally damaging, the PET bottle is often the poster child for waste and litter. But recent studies confirm the significant environmental advantages of PET versus other materials. It’s also perfect for the wine industry.
Studies show that anywhere from 80% to as much as 95% of all wine purchased domestically is consumed within 48 hours. If this is truly the case, then the vast majority of all wines should be packaged in PET. Here’s why:
Sustainability. The attributes of PET wine bottles were highlighted in a report from McKinsey & Company, the Climate Impact of Plastics. It found PET bottles have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions because of their lightweight properties and the low amount of energy required to produce them. By contrast, aluminum cans produce twice the emissions of PET bottles, and emissions from glass bottles are three times higher. The average 750ml PET wine bottle weighs 85% less than the same-sized glass bottle, for a total saving of eight pounds per case. Extrapolate this to shipping costs and the savings can be dramatic.
Flexibility. Consumers are looking for flexibility not only in their packaging, but in where they can enjoy their wine. PET is shatterproof, making it ideal for poolside, hiking, the beach or any of the countless locations where consumers want to enjoy wine. Tradition is not a sufficient reason to limit access to wine when PET removes these barriers.
Recyclability. PET packaging is 100% recyclable and can be made with up to 100% recycled material. Neither glass nor aluminum can make this claim. This recyclability embodies the circular economy: a framework where a product is manufactured, used, collected and recycled over and over again. When people recycle properly, it results in less waste, more reusable recycled content, and decreases the need for virgin PET.
Support for PET
Diverse organizations have aligned to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling rates. This alliance includes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, The Recycling Partnership, the Association of Plastic Recyclers, the US Plastic Pact and many, many others. This impactful work is making significant strides. The National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) recently released its 2022 recycling report. It showed that, across North America, PET recycling rates have increased to 36.8% (up 7.6%, from 34.2%, in 2020).
Adherence to tradition — and failure to embrace science-based studies — will significantly impact our industry. It’s time to look at what our consumers want and to be honest with the answer. Each packaging material has an application specific time, place, and use. The market is telling brands that, when it comes to sustainability for their wine packaging, the time is now. The science is telling us the packaging is PET.
Jonathan Jarman is an experienced marketing manager, packaging engineer and designer. Driven by a passion to solve problems and create new things, he takes pride in rethinking challenges and developing great products. As marketing manager for the spirits and wine segment with Amcor Rigid Packaging, his goals include increasing recycle rates for PET, helping customers break into new markets and creating packaging solutions that excite customers. In addition to his primary job functions, he and his team have been recognized by Amcor for outperformance in the area of customer focus with the annually awarded Amcor Outperformance Award.