All for a good cause

11 July, 2008

As consumers try to do right by the environment, suppliers are striving to help them - without any compromise on wine quality

Half

the 50 suppliers OLN polled

are sourcing more wines with an ethical or environmentally friendly angle, from organic and biodynamic

to Fairtrade or wines supporting charitable causes.

Growing consumer demand has prompted this move, as has a

trend among producers. Organic and biodynamic wines in particular are gaining popularity with winemakers, many of whom believe they make better, more concentrated wines - and many who are not fully accredited use some organic or biodynamic techniques .

"We are stocking more organic, biodynamic and Fairtrade wines. It is the right thing to do, and if a consumer can do the right thing for the environment or someone's working conditions - provided there is not a discernably high financial cost to them - then most will," says Neville Harris, commercial manager at Stratford's Wine Agencies.

"As organic products generally play a bigger part in consumers' purchase patterns, wine is following this trend and is seeing high double-digit growth," says Bottle Green marketing director Richard Hitchcock.

Richard Cochrane, off-trade sales ­director at Bibendum Wine, says: "Ethical purchasing is a consumer trend - whether or not it's inflation-proof remains to be seen."

But some suppliers are concerned that consumers have a

limited understanding of many of the environmental and ethical labels that can be given to wines. And if they don't understand them, they are less likely to pay the higher prices these wines often need to cover their own costs.

"There are far too many poorly explained ethical messages that consumers are confused about," says Hitchcock. Fairtrade seems to be the best explained, while organic wine is not seeing quite the same uplifts as organic food.

Cochrane says: "Consumers don't understand the categories in the wine trade. They believe the product in general to be ethical already and don't understand organic grapes don't make organic wine. The retailer feels the need to show ethical trading standards, so they lead the agenda."

"We know

consumers are less engaged with the concept of organic wine production because they already view wine as a natural product," says Simon Doyle, commercial director at Concha y Toro UK.

"However, there is a core group of ­consumers, growing all the time, for whom organic certification is a selling point. Wine consumers do seem to be more engaged with the concept of Fairtrade, although they don't necessarily associate wine with Third World poverty.

"While organic certification, Fairtrade status, a link-up with an environmental charity like Trees for Cities or carbon neutral delivery status may not be the key factor when deciding which wine to buy, they are all reasons to buy and I think we are going to see increased consumer interest in ethical and environmental products," he adds.

Many suppliers agree that taste will remain the main factor in consumers' wine choices - so environmental and ethical credentials will only work if the quality matches.

"It is important to stress that wines

are being made organically because it is a way to make better wines rather

than a mere marketing gimmick," says Andrew Hawes, managing director of Mentzendorff.

Eco-pioneer: Vintage Roots

Organic and biodynamic specialist Vintage Roots is a trailblazer among wine suppliers in its environmentally-conscious approach.

The company hired

Carbon Clear to research its carbon footprint

and found that longer trips by ship were not as damaging to the environment as a lot of shorter trips by road - so

a bottle of wine shipped from Australia or South Africa carries roughly half the carbon footprint of a wine driven from southern Italy or Austria. Where it can't save carbon it offsets it by investing in tree-planting programmes, preferably in developing countries.

Vintage Roots also tries to use

ethical or green suppliers for

its business needs, from banking to office equipment . It plans to convert its vans to biodiesel, increase its 84% recycling rate and review how much paper its suppliers use.

Which ethical wines are suppliers stocking more of?

Organic

Fairtrade

Biodynamic

Black Economic Empowerment

Protecting local environments

Sustainable viticulture

Cutting carbon footprint

Supporting eco-charities

What environmental measures are most popular?

Cutting carbon footprint 26%

Lighter-weight packaging

Recycling/recyclability

Reducing packaging/energy waste

Bulk shipping

Environmentally friendly viticulture

Less road freight

Nothing

What are wine suppliers doing to go green?

"We have

a green action group , tasked with looking at

initiatives to be more responsible towards the environment. This includes recycling, composting

food waste, saving energy and sharing cars , to name but a few. In fact, every week we have a new 'green tip' which is circulated around the business to prompt awareness, and we also encourage individuals to take personal responsibility both at work and at home."

Matthew Dickinson,

Thierry's

"It sounds corny but 'reduce, reuse, recycle' is still the best way to work and live. We are using lighter weight bottles and increasing UK filling - the challenge for UK bottlers is to help us

produce more premium-looking products, particularly reliable sources of good- looking but light bottles ."

Neville Harris

Stratford's Wine Agencies

"Reh Kendermann believes in looking after its carbon footprint, and for some time has been using recycled packaging and lighter glass, where appropriate, in order to reduce carbon emissions. Reh Kendermann is actively looking at other measures to look after its carbon footprint and the environment. For example, it is investing in a new warm water heating system that will make use of the otherwise wasted energy created by the generators for compressed air to clean equipment in the winery, and so reduce energy consumption."

Nik Schritz

Reh Kendermann

"Myliko is planting trees in an attempt to offset emissions caused by transporting its products to the UK, and recently announced a partnership with JF Hillebrand to shift the transportation of its Hungarian imports to rail and sea to reduce carbon emissions. We are actively trying to lead the way in engineering greener supply routes, limiting the impact on the environment from production

to shipment and distribution across the UK."

Nish Kotecha

Myliko

"We have worked hard to reduce the weight of our wine bottles, achieving a 9% reduction on some of the wines, which makes our bottles lighter than our direct competitors'."

Lisa Duckenfield

Grupo Faustino

"Ehrmanns has worked hard to establish itself as the leading Fairtrade wine importer and now has four major Fairtrade wineries as part of its Fairtrade portfolio - Stellar and Thandi in South Africa, Los Robles in Chile and Soluna in Argentina."

Joy Edmondson

Ehrmanns

"We have an environmental project team

which

will set out

initiatives

to reduce our carbon footprint. We have been working for the past 12 months on increasing the number of wines we contract pack in the UK

using the shipment of bulk wine.

We have

identified several high volume lines

we can switch to lighter weight

bottles."

Lewis Jones

D&D Wines

"Concha y Toro is launching a step-by-step strategy to significantly reduce its global carbon footprint. The key areas are energy and waste reduction as well as the reduction of carbon emissions, and the first project, which will be implemented from this month, is glass reduction."

Simon Doyle

Concha y Toro UK

"We recycle as much paper and packaging in the office as possible. We work from home and encourage staff to cycle to work.

We encourage producers to use lighter bottles

and our suppliers to deliver smaller shipments to a single winery so

the freight lorry collects from only one pick-up point."

Lance Foyster,

Clark Foyster Wines

"We have created an in-house committee called Vivid that targets all areas of the business and looks at how we can reduce our energy wastage in everything we do. It also helps us

communicate to our customers exactly what our policies are."

Ben Smith,

Bibendum

"Australian Vintage is dedicated to the ongoing sustainability of natural resources . We have

filtration and reticulation systems designed to minimise water use and to recycle."

Michelle Beck

Australian Vintage




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