We discuss the various uses of cork, the differences between corks and other closures, and how the business of cork has evolved over the decades.
Interview with Carlos de Jesus, Director of Marketing and Communications for Amorim Corks in Portugal, the largest cork company in the world, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2020. We discussed the various uses of cork, the differences between corks and other closures, and how the business of cork has evolved over the decades.
This episode originally aired in September of 2020. To access the rest of our library and support the show via Patreon!
Detailed Show Notes:
Amorim - 150-year history, largest cork company in the world, produces 5.5 billion stoppers per year, over 18,000 winery clients globally, most small
Sources cork from 1,000s of property owners, mainly in Portugal and Spain
Uses of cork: wine, footwear, fishing, aerospace, flooring, and sports
Differences between cork and other closures: technical, sustainability, and additional value add
- Oxygen transfer rate (OTR) - plastic (lets in too much oxygen), screwcap (lets in too little), cork (“just right”)
- Average cork has 800 million cells in it
- TCA - “we have defeated TCA” - mitigated to the point where cork is now gaining market share
- Consistency of corks - not an issue for technical stoppers (micro agglomerates, twin top), a technology used to help with natural corks
Sustainability - people, planet, profits
- CO2 - a single cork can have up to 562 g CO2 sink per stopper
- Cork harvesting one of the best paid agricultural jobs, ~€125-135 / day for three months/year
- Cork forests are 1 of 36 hot spots for biodiversity in the world
- Cork forests help prevent forest fires, regulate water cycles, and trees live 200-250 years
- Corks are both compostable and recyclable (e.g., ReCORK America)
Additional value add = the happy sound of a cork popping
- Of the 100 most sold brands in the US (data from Nielson), the average price of wine with cork is consistently higher than other closures
- 19.5B closures per year
- 12.5B closed with cork (~70%)
- 1.8-1.9B single-use plastic stoppers
The price of cork ranges from €0.04 - 3.00 per cork
- Screwcaps (the lowest price), plastic, cork
- Cork can now sometimes undercut the price of plastic
Supply and demand for cork
- 2.2M hectares of cork forests in the Western Mediterranean - lots of trees to supply the current industry
- It takes 43 years for a cork tree to supply cork for a wine closure -> new research with micro-irrigation is reducing the first harvest from 25 years to 10-12 years
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