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Waitrose trials removing sleeves from wine bottle necks

Published:  25 April, 2023

Waitrose has become the first UK supermarket to test selling wine bottles without the familiar plastic and foil sleeves, in a move which forms part of supermarket’s aim to ‘reduce unnecessary packaging’.

The removal of sleeves is now being trialled on Waitrose’s own brand Loved & Found range, which is focused on lesser-known grape varieties and regions. Initially, four bottles will be sold without neck sleeves, officially known as ‘capsules’. By the end of the year, the aim is to roll this out to the full Loved & Found range, with a total of ten wines losing this part of the packaging.

The change will put an end to the need to ‘cut and tear off this packaging’, Waitrose said. This process has become ‘part of the ritual of opening a bottle of wine’. Yet, it also ‘forms no functional purpose’.

Removing the capsules on the ten wines is set to save half a tonne of packaging per year.

Barry Dick, MW and Beer, wine and spirit sourcing manager for Waitrose said: “Bottle neck sleeves were introduced many years ago to prevent pests such as moths and weevils from ruining wines kept in dark, damp cellars. The caterpillars of this moth species would bore into the wine corks, causing the wine to leak, or taste musty.

“Nowadays, few people have wine cellars and those who do tend to keep them in much better conditions. This has meant that the sleeves have remained for purely aesthetic reasons and are no longer needed to protect wine.”

The bottles in the trial will also be corked with a new FSC cork, which has been “extensively tried and tested for its ability to resist being contaminated with TCA”, Dick added.

“TCA makes corks smell and taste mouldy and ruins wine. However, TCA is the reason why cork fell out of favour, but cork has great sustainability credentials which is why it’s making a comeback.

“The bottles look quite different as the neck appears naked, so it will be interesting to see how our customers react to us removing these familiar sleeves. I for one am looking forward to not having to wrestle with the packaging.”