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Bronco Wine is field testing 70cl PET bottles

California winery Bronco Wine, a major supplier of varietal wines, is field testing its leading Green Fin and Hacienda brands in lightweight 70cl polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles from Amcor Rigid Plastics.

Bronco Wine, the fourth largest winery in the US, is considering a major packaging switch from glass to plastic to capitalise on PET’s sustainability, lightweight, shatter resistance, and potential use in new venues, while enhancing its business in the retail and airline segments.

“The conversion to PET packaging in 750ml will be a game-changing event in the wine industry,” says Fred Franzia, CEO of Bronco Wine Co. “The use of lightweight PET and other associated eco-friendly packaging features takes us to the next level in terms of sustainability and further expands the Green Fin brand potential.”

Bronco Wine’s Green Fin organic wine in 75cl PET bottles is being field tested exclusively through Trader Joe’s retail stores throughout the US. The plastic bottles are also used to package the Hacienda brand for airline first-class passenger services.

Among the key sustainability advantages are the PET bottles’ 100% recyclability and the use of a PET label instead of paper which eliminates contamination in the recycling stream. The PET bottles are generally about one-sixth the weight of standard glass bottles. A short-skirt roll-on pilfer-proof (ROPP) aluminum closure was designed for Bronco so key sustainability and recycling goals could be met. The closure is recyclable, removes completely from the PET bottle, and is just 21mm long compared to the standard 60mm length. Another Amcor division, Amcor Flexibles, played a key role in the development of the aluminum closure.

“Our commitment to environmentally responsible practices is unwavering and this is just the next step,” says Mark Miles, quality manager for Bronco Wine. To meet its sustainability goals, Bronco first worked with eco-friendly glass and is now exploring PET as a highly viable alternative. “From the lightweight PET bottle, to the PET label, short aluminum closure, and tray shrink packaging, this is just a great eco-friendly package,” he adds.

Another key sustainability feature is the use of a 12-count tray and shrink film cover instead of traditional corrugated cardboard cases and partitions. The shrink film packaging is 2.5 times lighter than a standard cardboard case and lowers carbon emissions by 246,771 lb, according to Bronco.

Specifically, the 100% recyclable container reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 47%, cuts water use by 90%, lowers energy use by 43%, and reduces solid waste by 62%. The reduced carbon footprint is equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of 7.8 cars annually, saving enough drinking water for 1604 people, preserving 400 trees, and saving enough electricity for 21 households.

Consumers have embraced PET because of its convenience, according to Bronco. The PET bottle’s portability provides an entry into venues that do not allow glass because of the potential for breakage. In addition, consumers are impressed with the glass-like appearance and the high quality of the packaging. A unique barrier coating technology developed by Germany’s KHS Plasmax affords the 75cl PET container an extended shelf life versus a non-barrier PET bottle. The silicon oxide (SiOx) barrier coating is a glass-like material which seals the container from the inside to protect the contents from oxidation. Plasmax is an FDA-compliant enhanced passive barrier for oxygen-sensitive products. This ultrathin (less than 100nm) material is transparent and resists cracking, abrasion and delamination. Moreover, it doesn’t degrade over time nor limit the storage time for empty bottles. The barrier coating is easily removed during the recycling process and does not contaminate the recycling system, thus providing Bronco a fully recyclable container.

During an 18-month evaluation, Bronco conducted an analytical study and various tests to validate the colour, taste, and overall quality of the wine in 75cl PET containers.

Miles says PET met stringent requirements in protecting the wine and maintaining its stability and presentation over time. John Allbaugh, Bronco’s director of wine making, ultimately approved the container and certification was received from the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). The eco-friendly package was also approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Bronco’s glass-to-plastic conversion project received strong support from Halsey Bottling, Napa, Calif., that filled the 750ml bottles on its on-site mobile bottling line. 

Amcor expects continued strong growth for barrier PET wine containers in not only 187ml and 750ml bottles but a range of package sizes.

12 October 2015 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor