Wine production is a source of great pride for many French citizens. Partners throughout the global supply chain are proud to take part in an industry with such cultural importance. Change is not easily embraced in an industry with so much history and a rapidly aging workforce. Regardless, to make products more affordable and accessible there has been a push to use plastic wine bottles. There are clear advantages and disadvantages associated with this trend, but its popularity amongst consumers is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
One major benefit of the shift from glass to plastic packaging is the resulting reduction in transportation costs. Plastic packaging reduces the mass of an average shipping container by three to five tons when compared with glass bottles. This can significantly improve shipping efficiencies while reducing the carbon footprint of freight.
While many plastic bottles have been sold in international markets such as the United States and United Kingdom, there is also support from local French markets. Although French consumers have historically seemed more committed to upholding traditions than their international counterparts, producer Auguste Bonlouis sold several million plastic bottles to French supermarkets and restaurant chains in the past year.
There has been resistance from groups of producers such as the Beaujolais winegrowers union. They have banned the bottling of their wines in plastic, viewing it as a mark of disrespect for the product. This forced the Boisset Family Estates to revert back to glass in that region, but they will not cease using plastic elsewhere around the world.
While some producers may be outraged by it, the benefits of plastic wine bottles could very well outweigh any drawbacks. Industries in which the risk of broken glass is significant will be more likely to embrace plastic bottling. Entertainment venues for sports teams, concerts, and restaurants have already started to utilize plastic bottles for beer and would likely embrace the opportunity to do so with wine. Airlines and boat companies are also likely to see the benefits of safer packaging.
Popping corks from glass wine bottles will never lose its intrigue for many wine connoisseurs. Elsewhere, casual wine drinkers will continue to embrace the convenience of plastic bottles. The industry as a whole will have no choice but to cater to both markets if they wish to expand around the world.