Clear winner

8 October 2018

Glass is endlessly recyclable, nonporous and offers a degree of elegance. Whether their focus is luxury, practicality or desirability, it’s no wonder brands have been choosing glass as their packaging of choice for decades. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to industry insiders about the benefits of glass and the current innovations being applied to it, but also the challenges it faces.

You know where you are with glass. It looks great, offers practically zero rate of chemical transfer, can be endlessly recycled and is well established in the circular economy. But it breaks and it's heavy. So is it worth it?


Pont Europe certainly thinks so. Its latest product launch sees an attractive glass carafe for drinks and other liquids joining its roster of glass, PET and bio-based packaging, with the concept behind the product focused on an attractive 'second life', that is, a secondary function for the product after its initial role as packaging. The sturdy and stylish glass carafe from is currently available in 150 and 250ml variants, with more sizes on the way.


Netherlands-based and active across Europe, Pont's marketing manager, Ulric Lonfils, talks about the product, “The new glass carafe range from Pont is perfectly suited to today's fruit and vegetable-juice sector, as well as traditional cold soups, like gazpacho. It looks fresh and fashionable on the table and is easy to use. It's not too delicate; it has lovely smooth lines and an attractive curve, so it's elegant yet totally functional. The large labelling area is great, and the labels really stand out against the product inside.”



Waste not, want not


The benefit of a second life is that, while around 80% of glass that is recovered is recycled into new glass products and packaging, there is still concern around consumers actually recycling their glass packaging in the first place. By promoting glass products as offering an attractive second life, it doesn't diminish the importance of effective recycling, but encourages consumers to take control of how they maximise their use of resources in an effective way.


Second-life possibilities are boosted when the glass packaging is beautiful. So these carafes from Pont, for example, make ideal vases for flowers, on-table wine vessels, water jugs or holders for make-up brushes. Artisan brands are getting in on the second life act too; with design-focused companies keen to use glass packaging that will keep spreading their message long after the product within has been enjoyed.


For Whitley Neill Gin, part of the Halewood Wines & Spirits family of alcoholic brands, its distinctive black-glass bottle has been as carefully created as its handcrafted gin. With unusual squared edges and a luxurious, heavy feel, the glass bottle is a core element in its brand identity, especially as it has quickly gained fans – the brand recently won a number of awards at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits competition. Whitley Neill Gin founder Johnny Neill says, “Whitley Neill Gin leads the way when it comes to 'ginnovation'. We have had yet another successful year and it’s great to see the brand receiving such high praise, reaffirming our reputation as one of the industry's leading producers of artisanal spirits.”


The distinctive angled-glass packaging of the Whitley Neill Gin is also continued across the brand, which includes a number of brightly packaged, unique flavours, such as green-glass bottles for the Quince Gin, and purple for the Rhubarb and Ginger Gin. Its recently launched Premium Rye Vodka is also packaged in an opaque, grey bottle. Neill adds, “We're focused on growing the brand's recognition. The whole range has a bold appearance; the strikingly elegant grey, opaque bottle of our Rye Vodka offers great stand-out on shelf.”



Flavour in a glass


It’s clear that even though glass is one of the oldest packaging materials, its ability to shape-shift into the most innovative of materials is partly down to its long-established desirability and reputation for luxury. The applications for glass are constantly evolving, especially when a product comes along that is disruptive in its sector. Step forward, Spice Drops.


Spice Drops from Holy Lama – which received an incredible shout-out from Nigella Lawson on Instagram – are highly concentrated natural extracts of herbs, spices, flowers and fruits.


Founded by Gouri Kubair, Spice Drops are claimed to be 'so intense that just one drop can transform a recipe with authentic flavour and aroma'. They come packaged in beautiful, little glass bottles with accurate droppers. Kubair says of the product, “Packaging is the main hook for customers to be drawn towards a product. For Spice Drops, our attractive and user-friendly packaging means purchase and repeat purchase. Our packaging also helps us to explain how the product should be used and how many drops equate to the equivalent raw ingredient or dried version.”


Spice Drops maintain their flavour for three years, unlike dried herbs and spices, which lose theirs soon after opening, with the glass packaging offering minimal waste and mess. Kubair continues, “We chose glass for our 5ml retail products for eco-friendly and practical reasons, as the spices are pretty powerful ingredients and plastic is not suitable in case it reacts with them. We are also introducing 100ml catering bottles made from aluminium for the catering industry, and we're introducing a new sub-range that focuses on Mediterranean flavours to join our popular Indian spice flavours.”


But what about products that have used glass for decades? Wine is traditionally packaged in 750ml glass bottles, with innovation in this sector including the increasingly popular bag-in-box and 250ml formats. Much-loved sparkling-perry brand and party favourite Lambrini has relaunched its glass-bottle packaging to build on previous successes reinvigorate the brand identity.


Emily Cross, Lambrini's brand manager, says, “Over the past 12–18 months, we've put more emphasis on Lambrini's packaging to ensure strong impact and presence on the shelf, with the use of bright, distinctive colours that correspond with what's inside the bottle and are easily recognisable. We've also launched a series of seasonal bottle-wraps, aiming to differentiate in a busy category.”


Lambrini is loyal to its own iconic glass bottle as the company believes glass packaging is trendier, offers transparency and represents quality. Cross adds, “Edgy label designs and branding continue to push boundaries visually, so we are continuing to evolve and update the Lambrini brand to maintain its relevance.”



New wine in new bottles


We can't talk about innovative alcohol packaging without mentioning a new type of bottle. It's not glass, but it performs like it and is truly disrupting the wine-bottle sector. Garçon Wines, founded by Santiago Navarro, is the inventor and IP-holder of its full-sized, postable, flat wine bottle. Made of 100% recycled PET (also known as rPET), these award-winning wine bottles require less shelf space, are significantly lighter than glass and – crucially – can be delivered through a standard letter box.


 “We're revolutionising wine delivery and improving wine retailing, logistics and engagement – in the UK and internationally,” says Navarro. “Glass bottles were designed for a bygone era when Amazon was non-existent and people would buy wine from a shop close to their home. Wine bottles have been unchanged for generations, with the only major change being in the closure – from cork to screw caps, which didn’t have the warmest of welcomes. We're pleased and pleasantly surprised to see the interest in our innovation.”


Consumers like glass and the idea of being environmentally friendly; but consumers also like the idea of buying something online that gets delivered to their house the next day, without any fuss. Glass will adapt and change as it always has done, despite challenges from other material. There will always be a place for it, because, ultimately, consumers like choice.


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