Ensuring quality in a smaller world of wines

May 2019

In many respects, the commercial world is getting smaller with businesses around the globe becoming more connected through rapid advances in real-time communications. The use of instant messaging, video conferencing and screen sharing as well as remote sign-off processes has meant that important decisions can now be agreed in minutes rather than in days.

Meanwhile, logistically speaking, suppliers now have myriad options of getting something from point A to point B. However, our supply chains, although more efficient than ever before, are growing to be complex beasts. In some cases, there can be hundreds of stakeholders involved in a single product’s route to market. In the global world of packaging, this is especially true, with different ingredients as well as various container elements having to be brought together from widespread locations across the planet.

All of this has the potential to impact the quality of the end-product, which is why it is vital that businesses can identify robust processes to ensure high-levels of consistency and standardisation throughout their supply chains. At the same time, with sustainability at the forefront of political and social agendas, producers must also look for new ways to minimise the impact of their operations on the world around them.

Advancement through innovation

It is a complicated challenge to address, but the wine-making industry is now a fantastic example of different supply chain stakeholders coming together to find smarter ways of working that guarantee the integrity of the end-product.

With wine, quality is everything.

As someone with a background in both chemistry and wine-making, I recognise how even the smallest microbiological element can have a major impact on a taste profile. At Encirc, I lead a laboratory team of quality assurance professionals with highly trained palettes to ensure that any product leaving our factory doors falls in line with the supplier’s exacting specifications and requirements.

The UK is the world’s largest importer of wines, with a retail value of around £7.6 billion. Around 50 per cent of this is imported from the New World. The wines we pack at Encirc are some of the market’s best-known brands, sent to us from thousands of miles away.

Whether it’s an Australian Shiraz or an Argentinian Malbec, the nature of the journey from vineyard to supermarket shelf in England is hugely important.

It is a common misconception that an imported wine which is bottled in its country of origin and then shipped overseas retains 100 percent of its source quality. In fact, quite the

opposite can be true. If a wine is bottled at source and then sent to a foreign market, it will be moved in pallets and stored in mixture of various environments. For example, in a warehouse, a shipping container, or the back of a goods vehicle.

The longer the wine is transported in this way, the greater the danger of temperature variation. These changes in temperature can result in a degradation of beverage quality, and the quicker the changes, the worse the effects. This can occur when certain pallets are left in sunlight, when they are transported over the equator, or even when the environment is significantly different from night to day.

For this reason, many winemakers in the New World are choosing to ship their wines overseas by bulk shipping methods. This means they are packed in huge quantities, up to 24,000 litres, contained in a single flexible and light-weight packaging material.

When the wines are transported in this state, they have a much larger thermal mass and are therefore significantly less susceptible to temperature variations. Even when the environment changes around the wines, it is at a much slower rate of change than that of a 75cl bottle.

Quality-led sustainability

At Encirc, we conduct regular surveys with our customers around the world and each one suggests that sustainability is of growing importance. By shipping wine in bulk, producers and all other parties involved in the supply chain are not only able to safeguard the quality of the product, they can also massively reduce the carbon footprint of their operations.

According to WRAP, on average, transporting wine to market contributes more than a third of carbon dioxide emissions generated by wine throughout its lifecycle. The weight of its packaging is a crucial part of this. By shipping wine in bulk, rather than in bottles, these figures can be reduced by up to 40 per cent.

As well as utilising bulk shipping methods, we also support our customers with their quality and sustainability concerns by offering a unique 360 service. This allows us to manufacture their glass containers at our site in Elton in an environmentally responsible way and ship them out to retail environments using consolidating loading.

In terms of upholding quality, this also gives us complete control of the supply chain, once the wine has left the source. Wine quality and its shelf life can be affected on a microbiological level by its choice of packaging material. At Encirc, we believe in the power of glass, a unique packaging for wines in the fact that it is both chemically inert and can be recycled infinitely over and over again. As we are also often involved in the design stages of bottle manufacture, we can also help ensure better levels of air within a container headspace, which prevents oxidisation at the filling stages.

Collaborating for a better future

On the journey from the grapes on the vines in California to the bottles on the shelves in Yorkshire, the challenges affecting quality come in many forms. However, as the benefits of bulk shipping and more sustainable forms of packaging become more widely known, there will certainly be more of an uptake in these time-tested methods.

Today, we can make positive changes to our organisations’ processes faster and more effectively than ever before. So, if we see something where improvements can be made in terms of quality, there is no excuse for us not to act on it quickly.

Our message to the other industries in the packaging community, especially in the food and beverage markets, is to follow in the same direction as wine. Let’s take a magnifying glass to every aspect of our supply chains to examine the route causes of quality degradation, explore new avenues for improvement, and share knowledge of new operations to improve product quality on a global scale. For more information visit www.encirc360.com or follow us on Twitter or Instagram (@Encirc360).

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