Wine Bottles Will Change the World
Why the wine industry has the potential to eliminate waste and redefine America’s supply chain.
We are in the early stages of a shift away from from disposable consumer goods to reusables. The World Economic Forum projects that between 20–40% of single-use packaging will become part of the reusable economy by 2030. Despite the perceived narrative about the difficulties of these models, there are already successful examples demonstrating the financial and environmental opportunities of reusable commerce.
The Four Models of Reusable Consumer Goods
Four main models have arisen for reusable commerce, including:
1. Refill at home (e.g., Blueland, Sodastream).
2. Refill on the go (e.g., Algramo, MIWA).
3. Return from home (e.g., Loop, Danone Water Jugs).
4. Return on the go (e.g., Coca-Cola Brazil Universal Bottle, Starbucks Borrow a Cup),
Refill and return from home model have gained the most traction in the US because they do not require major changes to the current infrastructures. However, these models are generally more expensive than refill and return on-the-go models due to costly last mile logistics. Refill and return on-the-go have the greatest opportunity to increase logistical and financial efficiencies that are critical to wide-scale adoption of reusable consumption.
On-the-go refill and return models have been proven to work at scale in several geographies, including Latin America, Japan, and Europe. The most critical part of their infrastructure is the extensive retailer network that makes returns convenient. However, scaling retailer participation is the major hurdle we face in the United States.
In Search of the Right Opportunity
In 2017, our team launched Fresh Bowl, a grab-n-go food business that sells meals in reusable containers. We sold exclusively from our own retail locations with a vertically integrated supply chain. Using this model, we received 85% of our packaging back and we reduced our packaging costs below single-use alternatives.
After COVID impacted our retail foot traffic, we tried moving into retail distribution. However, we encountered barriers from retailers’ operations teams over the logistical complexity, implementation costs, and packaging safety. Our small brand and limited product selection did not have the influence needed to overcome these obstacles.
We needed a new approach — a product and platform powerful enough to overcome these obstacles.
After months of testing, we are convinced that wine is the category that will lead the world for reusable commerce. Its standardized glass packaging, influential and environmentally-conscious producers, and vast network of retail locations make the wine industry perfectly positioned to lead the change.
Wine’s current packaging can be reused without extensive manufacturing changes. Approximately 75% of the wine industry’s volume (by units sold) could transition instantly to one of just six standardized formats without changing producers’ current filling lines or operations. In contrast, it took Haagen-Dazs two years to redesign the packaging and operations to launch their ice cream in reusable containers.
In addition, wine producers have the sway to drive fundamental change. Consumer demand for branded products in beer, wine and spirits give producers a strong position in the supply chain. For instance, AB InBev has established thriving beer bottle return programs for Modelo & Corona in Mexico by requiring distributors to exchange empty bottles for new beer.
In the light of the global glass shortage, producers have increased the required ratio of returned bottles to purchased bottles and created a secondary market for empty bottles. Some distributors are now willing to pay retailers up to four times the established Mex$20/crate for the empty bottles.
The example above demonstrates the leverage that major brands hold and the opportunity to align incentives to shift a large and complex supply chain across an entire country.
The Potential Impact of Reusable Wine Bottles
Wine can create the beachhead for reusable commerce. With wine sold at over 1M locations in the United States, this network would give America the largest return network in the world.
Producers who strive to make a positive impact have the opportunity leverage their actions by leading the way. A normal producer in a reuse program, like Good Goods, might reuse thousands of bottles each year, but the retailers and distributors they convince to participate can collect millions of bottles.
Wine bottle reuse represents just part of a much larger opportunity. If wine can drive adoption of reusable models, other industries can follow.
To quote the voice from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
At Good Goods, we are building the field and the wine industry is answering the call. Producers of all sizes are committing to the effort. The dream of reusable bottles in the wine industry is becoming a reality. Together, we are working towards a regenerative economy where the earth is freed up to produce resources, not house more waste. A future that the wine industry is leading.
For more information about Good Goods, please visit our website (www.thegoodgoods.co). If you are a retailer, distributor or producer please fill out our contact form and a team member will connect with you within 24 hours.
- Zach Lawless, CEO of Good Goods