From Big Picture Goals to the Practicalities of Wine Bottle Lightweighting
An important part of our mission at IWCA is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences between our member wineries.
Towards this end, earlier this month, we held a roundtable discussion on a “hot topic” within our membership: glass lightweighting. Our members heard from Nicolas Quillé, MW, Chief Winemaking and Operations Officer at Crimson Wine Group (Pacific Northwest, USA). We’re sharing highlights of his words of wisdom here.
Crimson Wine Group’s Journey Towards Using Lighter Weight Bottles
“We launched our strategy to reduce glass bottle weights in 2018,” explains Quillé. “Back then, standard bottle weights were at 575g. We wanted to get those weights down and so we devised a roadmap to reduce to 503g across the company that year.”
The process illuminated other efficiencies. “I realized that we had too many suppliers — several lines ordering bottles from different sources. It was unruly. We decided to reduce the number of suppliers from 10 to 1 and the number of molds from 25 to 8.”
“By consolidating supply, we saved US$400,000 in the first year,” shares Quillé.
In 2022, under Quillé’s direction, Crimson Wine Group carried out another glass lightweighting effort, reducing their average bottle weight from 503g to 479g. Again, they saw financial savings to the tune of US$200,000.
This year, the company is working to bring their average bottle weight down to 449g. The lightest weight bottle they use comes in at 395g, which is used on their largest brand, representing two-thirds of total production.
The Challenges — and Benefits — of Being Ahead of the Curve
Quillé admits that they are “getting to a place where there is not enough glass being produced at this weight. It’s almost considered ‘specialist’ glass by manufacturers. It’s a constant negotiation with glass suppliers — why pay more for less?”
A number of his colleagues were nervous about reducing glass weights for fear of increased breakage or a negative impact on sales. So far, their fears have been unfounded.
Not only that, but Quillé says that lighter weight glass has had a beneficial impact on sales and opened a few doors with cruise lines and airlines.
“When it comes to environmentally friendly retailers or other third-parties, it is a good story to tell!” he reminds us.
What’s Next for Crimson’s Packaging & Emission Reduction Efforts?
The overall objective at Crimson is to reach 400g per bottle on average by 2028. When they started on this path five years ago, they were producing 1,000 tons of CO2 from packaging. Today, they are at 950 tons, which makes up 12.7% of the company’s total emissions.
“Our aim is to reduce our footprint to 557 tons of carbon by 2028," he reveals — an concrete objective on the company's quest to reach Net Zero by 2050. “To reach this figure, a quarter of our production will shift from glass to PET or bag-in-box.”
One of Crimson’s next priorities is to encourage wholesalers to promote wines in lighter weight bottles.
The goal is to inform consumers or buyers who can be more intentional and environmentally conscious in their decision to purchase a given bottle. Crimson has already added information about its lighter weight bottles on its back labels to encourage consumer awareness.
Quillé is also working with his glass supplier to better understand their carbon footprint and the carbon footprint of the bottle — for example, looking at where the supplier’s silica and lime is coming from, how they power their furnaces, and their efficiency.
And his ultimate aim? “To build a bottling plant next to a glass manufacturer,” he laughs.