Flat future: Garçon Wines eyes Oceania and China with ‘sustainable’ wine bottles that fit through letterbox
The firm was first established in 2016 after winning the TV programme ‘Pop Up Start Up’, created by US TV network CNBC International and backed by China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The bottles are made from recycled PET material, not single-use plastic. According to the company, the space, energy and weight savings of its bottles could significantly slash greenhouse gas emissions and logistics costs from the wine supply chain.
Eleanor Brooker, marketing manager at Garçon Wines told FoodNavigator-Asia: “One Californian study has shown that the glass bottle alone makes up 29% of a bottle of wine’s entire carbon footprint from grape to glass. This carbon footprint increases to 51% when secondary packaging and transport are included.”
“Around 35 billion bottles of wine are consumed in the world every year. We are facing a climate crisis catastrophe and are now in the decade where urgent action is needed to mitigate against the unnecessary effects of a warming planet.
“The flat shape means they pack like books to more than double the amount of wine that can fit on a pallet. We estimate that each Garçon Wines bottle could save around 500g of CO2 from the supply chain.”
Using recycled PET also require 75% less energy and reduce carbon emissions by 79% compared to using virgin PET. The cap and label are made from PP, also a recyclable plastic that can enter the PET recycling stream.
Brooker said its durable PET bottles eliminated the need and costs for excessive protective secondary packaging associated with glass, as well as the risk, costs and frustration of broken glass and spilled wine during transit.
Through Alibaba’s initial support, the firm was able to find a manufacturer in China to bring its innovation to life with display prototypes. It conducted extensive R&D in 2017, and its first eco, flat wine bottles were commercialised in 2018 in UK.
While the firm started off as a wine subscription club, interest from the industry converted the firm into a B2B wine packaging company and wine wholesaler.
Garçon works with a bulk wine importer to supply wine, these were either offered as a finished solution using its own brands or as a private label offering.
“We currently offer popular Spanish Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache rosé wines,” Brooker said.
It now conducts business in UK’s gifting industry, on-trade and even festivals. Apart from UK, it launched in the Netherlands via the high-end department store de Bijenkorf last year.
“We have also recently launched in France, a market that, importantly for the country associated with the home of wine, has been positive and receptive to our respectful innovation.”
In February this year, the firm announced its collaboration with packaging giant Amcor, with its packaging bottles expected to launch in US later this year.
Brooker told us the firm is eyeing Asia-Pacific next as it is the fastest growing market for wine, which will result in growth for packaging.
Australasia is a top priority, Brooker said Australia was fundamental to wine in APAC as much of the wine enjoyed across Asia is produced in this country.
“Australia is the largest wine producer by volume in APAC and sixth in the world, while New Zealand is third in the region and eleventh in the world, preliminary 2019 data suggests. These countries’ exports by volume are also the two highest in APAC.”
Brooker added that these countries were forward-thinking markets of the wine world when it comes to embracing innovation.
“Australia is home to the two most significant innovations in wine packaging in the 20th century, bag-in-box and screw cap. Whereas some more traditionalist wine countries may unreasonably still favour cork closures, in Australia and New Zealand, the dominant closure for all levels of wine is the better performing screw cap.
“Australia, which suffered from the disastrous impacts of devastating wildfires at the start of this year, will be aware of the damage that the climate crisis has on the region and so we hope will be keen to adopt climate-friendly packaging that can help mitigate against the impacts of a heating planet.”
Brooker added that in New Zealand, winegrowers have pledged at the end of April to reach carbon neutrality in their industry before 2050, “so we trust will be looking for new ways for wineries to lower their carbon footprint.”
The firm had identified a potential production location in Australia, which will supply its eco, flat wine bottles to the region. The plan is to be operational in Australia by the end of this year.
Brooker said establishing a localised production was vital in keeping a low carbon footprint as well as the scalability to cater to growth in the regional demand.
In Australia, Garçon had also recently announced collaboration with wine giant Accolade Wines.
Moving beyond Australasia, China remains a key market for the firm.
“Not only is it an increasingly dominant wine producer, ranking 10th in the world by volume, but it also has an interesting pattern in consumption culture. The well documented rise of the middle-class wine drinker, strong emphasis on e-commerce, and rightful place as the fourth biggest wine importer in the world, means that we see great opportunity in targeting this growth market,” Brooker said.
Garçon is considering reconnecting with Alibaba to enter China through its e-commerce platform Tmall.
In China, the biggest wine consuming nation in the APAC region, around 20% of the wine sold is transacted online.
“Providing sustainable packaging, which is also suited to e-commerce, means we are in a good position to support companies looking to continue to make the most of online wine sales in our home market as well as Asia Pacific when we launch there next year,” Brooker said.
Flat is the new future
According to Brooker, its food-grade recycled PET would not react with the wine or affect its taste or quality.
“However, PET offers just a moderate barrier to oxygen and so there is some ingress of oxygen over time. If the wine were ever to change in character or flavour, then it would be solely as a reaction with oxygen. To improve the performance of our bottles, we introduce an advanced barrier technology.”
This technology gives the wine an improved shelf-life of between 12 to 18 months, depending on the wine.
Currently, Garçon’s eco, flat bottles are offered for wine-based applications. Brooker told us the firm was in the process of exploring new bottles shapes and ranges for other high value to volume liquids.
“We will likely first expand our offering to spirits, but developments of specialised flat bottles for alcoholic beverages that are popular in the Asia-Pacific market, notably baijiu or sake, are also probable in the near future.”