North Bay Business Journal

Monday, December 9, 2013, 6:00 am

North Coast Wine Industry Awards 2013: Verallia North America, a billion Eco-Series bottles

Category: Glass Supplier

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    Following in an interview with Steven Rhea, SVP of Strategic Development and Wine Sector GM for Verallia North America.

    Tell us a little bit about Verilla North America?

    Verallia North America has 13 manufacturing plants in the USA, with three dedicated to wine bottles.  In California, we have two facilities focused on the wine industry, one is our Madera manufacturing plant, the second is our distribution facility in Fairfield.  Here are some facts about each of these operations:

    Madera: A wine bottle manufacturing plant built in 1970. It has over 1 million square feet of production and office areas and is capable of doing large runs of 750 ml and 1.5 ml bottles. It has 310 employees and major upgrades were made to the facility furnace in 2007. The facility uses all the recycled glass it receives and has a cullet processing facility on premise.

    Fairfield: This is a state-of-the-art distribution facility with over 1 million square feet. A Rapid-Pack program repacks bulk glass into customer-specific cartons. Customer service and sales are located next to Napa customers. It is the headquarters for our Wine business and base for all wine related personnel: sales, customer service, production planning  and technical service.

    What have been recent highlights for your company?

    Steven Rhea

    Mr. Rhea: We invented and introduced the Eco-Series of Wine Bottles in 2009. Since that time they have become the industry standard bottles. We recently surpassed a milestone by selling our one billionth Eco-Series Wine Bottle. In addition we have recently added bottles to this line including two hock bottles and one high end tapered bottle.  Earlier this year we won the  GPI Clear choice award for best wine bottle package — for the sixth consecutive year.

    What has your market for bottles been like? What does that say about the health of the local wine business?

    Mr. Rhea: Our business is a reflection of  the  overall California wine market.  Consumer tastes and economic conditions effect what kind of wine consumers are buying. We make a wide variety of bottles that serve the entire market from high end to value wine. We think the California wine market is strong and directionally the market continues to go up.

    What are the top three opportunities and challenges facing your business in the foreseeable future?

    Mr. Rhea:  One of our greatest opportunities is to utilize more cullet or recycled glass in our making of bottles. Some countries in the world produce glass containers with much higher recycled content. We think this is a major opportunity and continue to support programs that promote recycling.  Another challenge we face is the need to continue to innovate our products  and develop unique products for our customers. One way we are meeting this challenge is by continuing to expand our Eco-Series line of products which use on average 15 percent less raw materials but still provide the shelf appearance and attributes of heavier bottles. Also a  service we developed to serve wineries is our Flex-Run service. This allows us to run two bottles on the glass forming machine at the same time and therefore allows a winery to develop its own unique bottle and run small quantities of this product at a fraction of the mold cost than previously could be done. This is a growing service whose uses include products for  special vintages, commemorative bottles and other special release or noted  wines.  Finally we would like to say we make all our wines bottles in the U.S. and we continue to invest in our plants, services and sustainable efforts  that support the U.S. wine market.

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