Getting Closure

Guala Closures

The switch from steel to aluminium on pop or beer cans, the ballpoint pen and USB keys are some examples of such revolutions. Guala Closures out of Melbourne has also done something of merit – the company has changed the way we think of bottle closures. We spoke with Simon Yudelevich, Guala’s Australian Sales and Marketing Manager, about Viiva – the new innovation – as well as counterfeiting, environmental policies, and decorative technologies.

Guala Closures Group was founded in Italy in 1954 and now operates 24 production plants on four continents and has sales to over 100 countries. It is a unique industry that produces closures for non-refillable spirit containers, as well as closures for wine, soda, olive oil, beer, etc. Recently industry players came to Guala Closures looking for a solution to an age old problem. They wanted to find a better way to deal with sparkling wine. The issues involved included loss of carbonation, taint and hard to remove closures. So, for five years, the Research and Development team at Guala Closures worked on a solution – ViivaTM.

Viiva ended up being developed in Melbourne after much rigorous testing in-house. “The trials were conducted both in-house, as well as on bottling lines,” explains Simon. “We stress tested the closure well beyond its capacity. In addition to taint, hard to remove closures, and issues with pressure, we also needed Viiva to look good and keep the quality and integrity of the wine.”

The easy to open Viiva closure looks, functions, and feels – from an opening/handling perspective – very similar to a conventional screw cap, so the takeup by customers was easy. This new innovation was only launched this past May and two major wineries, De Bortoli, and Taylor’s Family Wines, have already incorporated it into their bottles. Guala Closures is also actively bringing Viiva to NZ and other markets such as Asia and North America.

The patented and trademarked Viiva is “not just addressing quality issues,” says Simon. “We needed to look beyond that and provide something that would be sustainable and beneficial to the market and the consumer. The biggest benefit is that it is safe to open. The top cap won’t pop off like a cork and a lot of potential injuries are averted.” Also of note is that it does not promote leakage. The product will be a benefit to bars, restaurants, clubs, sporting events and concerts, as less product is wasted and bottles simply need to be capped to retain freshness.

Another area that Guala Closures is focusing on is counterfeiting. Each year hundreds of millions of bottles of the most prestigious brands are counterfeited and filled with unregulated domestic or dangerous industrial products, which in many cases have serious consequences. The company has been working to fight counterfeiting for 50 years. One of the ways it has been able to guarantee the authenticity of wine bottles is through something called a “roll on pilfer proof” aluminium closure with a visible tamper ring which is exposed once the seal is broken. It is important not just from the point of view of the consumer, but also because the Australian wine industry is currently entering into the Chinese market and elsewhere in Asia. ”It is a high risk growth market, so it just makes sense that we protect our product in the best way we can.”

Another issue the company is working to address is sustainability. Guala Closures wants to deliver a more environmentally friendly solution. “We have had a policy in place for a while, but there are certain things we have done recently which have been a bit more aggressive in terms of advancing our green credentials, such as a carbon offsetting program which is quite extensive.” In 2011 the company published its first report on sustainable development. The government of Australia does give out grants and subsidies but Guala Closures has taken its own initiatives in terms of putting together a carbon offsetting program. For example, it is currently involved in a reforestation program in Peru.

Decorative technologies are another very important facet of the closure industry. A bright eye-catching technology known as “Hot-Foiling” is used predominantly on spirit bottles. Now, however, more wines are also using this technology. The foil on the label resembles the foil on the cap making for good brand and decoration consistency. Embossing is the art of decorating the closure with a raised design. “If you are picking up a Yellowtail bottle with a screw cap on it, we have put a side embossed image of the Kangaroo. We partner with brands and create solutions,” explains Simon. “So, five years ago we worked with Yellowtail and the embossing technology. When people pick up a bottle, they normally touch the cap. So the embossing allows them to have a tactile bottle, which helps them to connect with the brand a little more.” Sometimes it’s the little things that can have a long lasting effect on the consumer and his or her choices.

As in any other industry, competition is what drives Guala Closures to excel. The company stays ahead by investing in a multitude of different innovation and technology solutions. With 25 researchers on its R&D team, the company has developed over 20 new products over the last three years and boasts more than 70 international patents registered in the field of product protection. “We stay close to the market and the customers. We listen to them and partner with them to provide what is needed.”

Aside from the competition, Guala Closures faces other challenges. From a global perspective the economic conditions have, for the last five years, become an issue. “In particular, the European market is very difficult as well as the US economy which has been slow/soft, and these are two of the biggest markets in the world,” says Simon. “When things are tough, people normally cut back on discretionary spending. Traditionally alcohol is relatively recession proof, but if people don’t have as much money they probably will cut back on things, which include alcohol, but also other beverages, soft drinks and olive oils.” In Australia, the biggest challenge is economic conditions. Global uncertainty is making people more cautious, and the high dollar makes it difficult for exports, so imports become more attractive to competitors although, with new opportunities as the Australian wine market expands into Asia, there is also cause for optimism.

Although the company’s largest plant is in the head office in Italy, the biggest aluminium plant for wine closures is in Australia. The company makes more screw caps in Australia than at any other plant anywhere in the world, seeing Australia play an important role in the success of the company.

There are certain things in life that we take for granted, certain advancements that don’t get the recognition they deserve. And there are certain organisations that are constantly working on making improvements to everyday life that we as consumers rarely appreciate beyond the obvious practical applications. Guala Closures has developed a business plan that serves to please everyone who buys bottled wines, champagnes, spirits, beers, soft drinks, fruit juices, olive oils, and more. From retention of freshness and carbonation, to thwarting attempts at counterfeiting, to environmental sustainability, Guala Closures is a company that works to meet the needs of both the consumer and the manufacturer. We here at Business in Focus look forward to seeing what the company comes up with in the future – and that is our “closing” statement.

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September 20, 2018, 5:31 AM AEST