Consumers are asking more questions about the environmental credentials of the wines they buy – and merchants are being just as demanding of their suppliers.
This year’s Wine Merchant reader survey, in partnership with Hatch Mansfield, found that independent merchants are making an effort to reduce plastic use and to look for greener solutions for their packaging – perhaps no big surprise given how popular opinion about such issues has changed in recent years.
Interestingly, the bad press and negative social media attention surrounding heavy bottles has not filtered through to the independent trade, with only 7% of respondents saying they are delisting products that are unnecessarily bulky.
And although UK-bottled wines are often perceived as the preserve of cheaper supermarket wines, the majority of merchants say they are open-minded about listing them.
Liam Plowman of Wild + Lees in south London says his business has had green issues on its agenda for some time. “We have always used paper bags and no plastic,” he says. “We are selling more wine as bottle refills. We do local deliveries on foot or by electric car where possible.”
Paola Tich of Vindinista in Acton adds: “We reuse as much packaging as we can, including bottles for our refill wines.
“We tried recycled bags but they broke, so we are sticking to recyclable kraft bags, gift boxes and tissue paper. Increasing numbers of people are asking for no packaging, which is a good thing.
“We also get a waste report each month from First Mile over how green we’ve been. The challenge independent retailers face is buying eco-packaging, which inevitably costs more, and then finding a way to pass it onto our customers. Some will get it but there are many who simply will not get the economics.”
Nichola Roe of Wine Therapy in Cowes is using recycled packaging material in the orders she sends out. “We also ask customers before offering a bag,” she says.
“We’d like to stop handing out biodegradable bags since we sell our own branded wine carriers. The plan would be to offer boxes if customers needed something to carry their wines in – since that might reduce the amount we have to dispose of – but it’s increasingly obvious that wine is often an impulse purchase and people still don’t walk around with bags ‘just in case’. Hopefully we’ll wave goodbye to the plastic carrier bag this year!”