UK supermarkets to use less and less plastic cork

  • Thursday 20 November 2003

Fewer synthetic corks will be used in future in wines sold in UK supermarkets, according to the country's most influential retailers.

Jim Rankin of the British importer of NuKorc, the Australian synthetic closure, said 'over the longer term synthetic corks will probably go down a little.'

Waitrose buyer Simon Thorpe told decanter.com synthetics had a future but this would be 'less and less important'.

Angela Mount of Somerfield and Tesco’s Helen McGinn both agreed with Waitrose's assessment.

Waitrose has been chiefly influenced by public feedback. According to Simon Thorpe this has been monitored at in-store tastings and through sales figures and customers' own comments.

'Much of the dislike of synthetics is related to ease of use,' he said, 'but there remain occasional quality problems such as oxidation and leakages.'

Angela Mount of Somerfield also spoke of problems with synthetics. ‘We've had issues in the past about leakages and also getting the closure out of the bottle. A lot more work needs to be done of the quality of synthetics.'

Waitrose sees closures in the future being a mix of natural corks and screwcaps. Tesco, by contrast, say they're 'very pro-screwcap'. Helen McGinn said, ‘We’re getting feedback from some customers who don't like what they call ‘plastic’ because of the corks getting stuck on the corkscrews. If there's a choice and the choice includes screwcap we'd very much rather go down that road.'

Some in the industry acknowledge the swing against synthetics may have caught their suppliers on the hop. ‘I think it must look a little odd to some in the industry,’ says Simon Thorpe, ‘when only recently we were all open to synthetic closure.’

Jim Rankin, the sales director of Rankin Brothers, who import natural corks as well as NuKorc, puts it more bluntly. ‘There was a panic rush by the supermarkets towards synthetics,’ he says. ‘Now they are finding out there are limitations with all types of closures.’

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