Tesco goes lightweight

(by peter)

Supermarket giant Tesco is launching what it calls the “lightest ever wine bottle” at just 300g.

Though plastic bottle producers may take issue with this, it represents another important step forward in reducing the environmental impact of the wine industry, a major issue that will become more and more important in the coming years.

The bottle was developed by Tesco in conjunction with UK bottler Kingsland Wine and Spirits, and Quinn Glass, working with the Waste Resource and Action Program (WRAP) as part of the second phase of its Glassrite project. Kingsland reckon this initiative will save 560 tonnes of glass per year.

The average UK glass wine bottle weight is estimated at around 500g.

Given its dominant market share and increasingly global reach, Tesco has enormous influence over both wine producers and wine consumers, so it is to be congratulated on its ongoing commitment to reducing packaging waste. Of course, this kind of innovation is also in its commercial interests – less glass means less expense and less transport costs (though you could add potentially higher breakage risk), and retailers increasingly have a legal obligation to reduce their waste.

Bottle weight is just one aspect of wine’s environmental impact, but it is one that is very visible at a trade and consumer level. With some ambitious bottles weighing in at 1kg and over, many in the UK trade (Susie and I included) feel it is high time that producers took a more socially responsible view.

It’s clear that producers are of the opinion that heavy bottles convey the notion of quality (or at least, help justify high prices) to the consumer. Interestingly, consumer research by Bangor University suggested that it was height more than weight per se that influenced consumer perception in this regard.

Tesco’s new bottle is actually a little shorter than its predecessors (and with more sloping shoulders), though it will be used primarily on entry level rather than premium wine. The first wine slated to go into the bottles is Tesco Australian Red NV, with all new entry level New World wines also going into the format. The first bottles will be on shelves in January 2010.

Tesco ships the majority of its New World wine in bulk, a trend that is increasingly popular among the big retailers, both to reduce carbon emissions and costs. Tesco now ships some 10 million litres of wine every year this way, covering 57 different lines.