APPE (previously Artenius PET Packaging Europe), the biggest producer of PET bottles in Europe, has already increased its production of PET wine bottles 45 per cent so far this year compared to 2009.
Sylvain Houard, business development manager France, told this publication that such growth does not mean that PET is on its way to replace glass in the wine market, but rather supplement it and open up new markets.
As PET is unbreakable and easily opened and closed, Houard said the material is particularly suited to the travel and ‘ready to drink’ markets. APPE has already signed deals with air and train companies including Air France and Eurostar to distribute its PET wine bottles.
Although the travel market offers some opportunities in the domestic French market, the bulk of demand is coming from export markets.
APPE said the UK is the ‘motor’ for growth in Europe while the biggest international buyer is Japan. The company, which is a part of La Seda De Barcelona, has upped its PET production significantly for the Beaujolais nouveau this year to meet Japanese orders.
François Desfretier, the head of the French firm PDG Plastiques, confirmed that Japan is one of the biggest sources of growth for PET packed wines. Desfretier said the weight of PET bottles, around eight times lighter than glass bottles, gives PET a major economic and ecological advantage in export markets like Japan.
And according to the company head, in Europe the ecological argument for PET is a potent sales weapon. He said, for example, that the sensibility of Nordic consumers to environmental concerns has made Scandinavia a particularly promising market for PET packed wine.
Despite the promise of PET, its use in the wine market remains controversial. The Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV) published a study earlier this year that claimed the character of white wine packed in PET changed noticeably after six months.
The ISVV said chemical changes observed in the wine translated into sensory changes – the jury of tasters agreed that the wine tasted of “rotten fruit”.
Both APPE and PDG Plastiques dispute the claim that PET is not capable of protecting wine for more than six months. Both companies claim that wine can be kept in their PET bottles for two years without risking any noticeable change in product quality.
Houard from APPE, said the ISVV study, had failed to accurately consider the impact of modern barrier technologies in extending the shelf life of PET packaged wine.