Seeing Through Glass Packaging

Dec. 6, 2021

Glass is classy, but it's not always best from a functional standpoint.

As the holidays close in, among the many shortages we’re all dealing with can be included a shortage of glass liquor bottles. Wine and spirits bottlers are scrambling for available bottles, switching suppliers at the last minute, and cutting back on less popular sizes.

When I contemplated this, I was reminded of a visit some years ago, to a bottling plant for a distiller/distributor of third-tier liquor brands – the kind you get at a bar when you don’t care what goes into your vodka-tonic. I was chatting with the company president, and we got on the subject of packaging.

About two-thirds of his production was in PET. He told me that if it were up to him, there would never be another glass bottle in his plant. Glass is expensive, heavy and fragile. The only reason he still ran it was that the trade – i.e., the bars where most of his liquor got sold – expected it.

Now, tradition means a lot more for, say, old French cognac than it does for third-rate vodka. But as the distillers fight over those glass bottles, it’s perhaps worth remembering – for the irony, if nothing else – that they’re fighting over what, in terms of its performance and convenience, is a second-rate form of packaging.

Of course, those distillers should be grateful they’re not in the United Kingdom.

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