How Packaging Can Drive a Sustainable Wine Industry

For decades, wine aficionados have embraced the adage “the heavier the wine bottle, the better the quality of the wine.” But that thinking is changing thanks to concerns about the environment, the amount of fuel and emissions to transport empty and filled wine bottles, and the overall carbon footprint of wine production. As a result, more winemakers are transitioning to more sustainable packaging.

Packaging contributes significantly to wine's overall environmental footprint. Packaging and shipping alone accounts for 51% of wine’s total carbon footprint, making it a focal point for driving a sustainable wine industry.

At the same time, consumers are driving the demand for sustainable wine. According to a study by Wine Intelligence, 71% of U.S. wine consumers indicate they would consider buying sustainable wine in the future. These consumers seek easy ways to identify these options, making marketing and communications key to a brand’s growth strategy.

Sustainable wine bottles from Berlin Packaging

Author: Robert Swientek
Contributor: Celine Yang   Date: April 28, 2023

Sustainable wine packaging

Moving Towards Sustainable Wine Packaging

When it comes to glass bottles, many winemakers are incorporating sustainable strategies from lightweighting to adding recycled content. Others are taking creative approaches to rethink the packaging model itself, such as bag-in-box or piloting bottle return programs. Some have even redesigned their bottle shape to use less raw material and fit more bottles into each case.

Beyond the bottle, many winemakers are looking at the entire wine package. Some have swapped out foil capsules for wax seals, cutting down on mined materials and making bottles easier to recycle. Others are using recycled materials and water or soy-based inks for their labels, promoting better recyclability.

Lightweighting Wine Bottles

Many wineries are moving to lightweight or lighter-weight glass bottles and reaping the benefits. They’re lowering their transportation costs, saving fuel, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions without any loss of protection or noticeable changes in appearance from the lighter-weight glass. While there is no clear weight designation for lightweight wine bottles, most industry observers agree that 450 grams or less per 750-ml bottle would qualify as lightweight. An example of a lighter-weight wine bottle may be a winery switching from an 850-g bottle to a 530-g vessel.

According to a California Wine Institute study, glass bottles represent 29% of wine’s overall carbon footprint. These bottles themselves take up nearly half of the weight of a case of wine, rather than the wine itself. Transporting these heavy cases alone generates 13% of wine’s environmental footprint. As glass bottles make up the majority of the wine market, this represents a major opportunity to reduce carbon emissions.

Producing lighter bottles uses fewer raw materials and less energy. Lightweight bottles are easier to pour, especially for restaurant servers. Lighter bottles also mean lighter cases, which make them easier to handle manually and move around. Because of their added glass thickness, heavier wine bottles require more space and larger cartons. Fewer cartons will fit into standard-size pallets, increasing shipping costs. And these bigger bottles may not fit into standard wine racks.

From Cradle to Retail: Wine's Carbon Footprint

Infographic courtesy of Wine Institute.  

Berlin Packaging's wine repack facility

Serving as a Strategic Packaging Partner

We partner with brands to help them transition to sustainable wine packaging. To help brands meet their sustainability goals, we provide an expansive suite of sustainability services ranging from quantitative assessments to sustainability communications strategies.

We offer a wide range of stock and custom wine packaging options, such as glass bottles in multiple styles (burgundy, claret, reverse tapered claret, hock, champagne, and specialty), color options, and closures. To meet the need for lighter-weight packaging, we offer bottle weights as low as 395 grams in 750-ml sizes.

Our 430,000-sq-ft distribution center in Napa Valley offers world-class fulfillment and repack capabilities. A 25,000-sq-ft repack facility features a semi-automated line, which can manage the entire print pack process and support custom pallet requirements (e.g., bulk-to-case, case-to-case, restacking, and more).

View our portfolio of sustainable wine packaging options below.

Aurelia: 100% Carbon-Neutral Wine Bottle

Aurelia Wine Bottle

Our in-house carbon-reduced and compensated Aurelia wine bottle has a quantifiably lower environmental footprint compared to a conventional wine bottle. We produce Aurelia using furnaces powered by biomethane, a renewable energy source obtained from waste and certified by Eco Power. The carbon footprint of Aurelia is compensated through ClimatePartner, a leading German company in carbon accounting services since 2006.

To maximize use of recycled glass content, we offer the Aurelia bottle in two shades of green: ancient green and emerald green. For its sustainable design, Aurelia was recognized as a Finalist in Packaging Europe’s 2022 Sustainability Awards.

Helium Mixology: Lightweight, Carbon-Neutral Bottle

Helium Mixology Lightweight Bottle

Along with the Aurelia, we offer the Helium Mixology bottle. Helium is made with lightweight and half-flint glass, which can incorporate up to 75% recycled glass. We designed Helium with a simple round base, allowing for unlimited embossing and decoration options. The Helium bottle accommodates bar-top and Vinolok glass closures and comes in three capacities: 500 ml, 700 ml, and 1,000 ml.

By conducting a life-cycle assessment (LCA), we calculated that producing the Helium bottle takes significantly less environmental resources compared to conventional bottles. With LCAs, we evaluate and assess strategies to reducing packaging environmental impact without compromising functionality, performance, and brand impact. Quantifying packaging environmental impact through tools like LCAs are crucial to creating a more sustainable wine industry.

Naked Wines: Lightweight Wine Bottles

We partnered with Naked Wines to create glass bottles that are 29% lighter than comparable products. By using lightweight glass bottles, they were able to significantly reduce their environmental footprint. To document and quantify the environmental benefits, we conducted life-cycle assessments of the new bottles and found significant reductions in fossil fuel use (−3,375 tons), CO2 emissions (−986 tons eq), water usage (−321,553 m3) and glass usage (−1,901 tons).

These quantitative tools are key to providing brands with verifiable, fact-based claims.

Driving Positive Impact with Naked Wines
Reducing environmental impact by switching to lightweight bottles

Environmental benefits of Naked Wines switching to lightweight wine bottles from Berlin Packaging
Canadian lightweight wine bottle policies

Legislation and Policy Impacts On Packaging

Policy changes in Canada are driving the adoption of lightweight wine bottles. In 2010, the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCB0) adopted guidelines calling for wine priced below CAD $15 to be packaged in glass bottles (750 ml) weighing a maximum of 420 grams. (The price point is now under $19.)

Since that time, the lightweight glass bottle program has been expanded to include 1-liter bottles (500-g maximum weight) and 1.5 liters (700-g maximum weight). Products that do not conform to the program are charged a fee of $1 per bottle.

In 2020, the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) announced a lightweight wine bottle policy requiring suppliers to transition from heavier to lighter bottles. For all priced wines in 2023, maximum glass bottle weights are 420 grams for 750 ml, 460 grams for 750 ml flute/tall, 550 grams for 1 liter, and 700 grams for 1.5 liters. The SAQ plans to extend the lightweight requirement to spirits and sparkling wine bottles.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for a review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney. It is the customer's responsibility to determine whether its filled product is subject to any applicable government regulations and to ensure compliance with such regulations.

If you're looking for sustainable packaging solutions for your business, request a packaging consultation today.