Roberson Wine on tap: innovation in a traditional industry
London, United Kingdom
There is something delightfully old-fashioned about the wine industry and the connoisseurs amongst us take great pleasure from showing off our wine knowledge at every opportunity. For an industry steeped in heritage and tradition, the introduction of plastic corks and screw tops took some time to be accepted, so what is the reaction to more significant innovations like putting wine on tap? Can people really swallow the notion of ‘pulling’ a glass of wine?
For some, this may seem like a step too far until you appreciate the business and consumer benefits of embracing innovation. Moving away from the traditional glass wine bottle and cork is a winning formula for everyone: it’s better for the consumer because they are getting a fresh glass of wine at a lower cost; and it’s better for restaurants because they are reducing waste, improving their environmental credentials, managing their stock more effectively and offering customers a much wider range of wines by the glass – appealing to all palates.
It is the innovative use of PET in the form of a keg to provide an economic and sustainable alternative to traditional glass wine bottles and steel kegs that is at the heart of this change.
With a PET keg, the initial investment is relatively small, just 200 euros for a manual filling head. This can then be fitted to an automated system as producers look to scale up. Importantly, the fittings in the restaurants and bars for PET kegs are the same as those needed for steel kegs used for ‘wine on tap’, so there is no financial barrier or investment in terms of replacing costly infrastructure required to switch to PET kegs. They can simply connect the wine keg to an existing pump system and start pouring.
Wine distributors such as Roberson Wine have seen enormous benefits in terms of improving their efficiency in shipping and warehousing. Lightweight, large volume kegs require less storage space than glass bottles, and transportation is more cost-effective. There is reduced breakage and wastage compared to glass bottles, and no replacement costs of damaged, lost or stolen kegs as Petainer kegs are “one-way”, i.e. non-returnable and 100% recyclable. PET kegs are also easy to handle during transportation and at the hospitality and retail outlets.
For those that worry that quality and taste will be compromised, the intricacies of the technology allow wine and beer to be effectively stored in PET and perform as well if not better than steel kegs and glass bottles. An active oxygen scavenger in the Polyester Plus material prevents oxygen from penetrating the product and reduces CO2 loss. Pigments in the polyester guard the contents against infiltration of UV light and the degradation it can cause.
It’s an innovation that is also helping to open some exciting new markets – an existing producer in France which works closely with Roberson and has embraced PET Keg technology has already told their US distributors about the benefits and immediately received orders from both the East and West Coast for their wines in Petainer kegs.
Embracing change is often a difficult step for industries – arguably even more so for those where heritage and reputation are so important. For the wine producers and the hospitality industry, the economic and sustainability upsides of PET Kegs must outweigh the view that only the bottle will do. With a low barrier to entry, offering the freshest, highest quality glass of wine – from house to high margin premium wines – is surely a win, win for everyone and the environment.