Throughout the 20th century, France was the major origin of high quality glass bottle manufacturing. However, this trend has been shifting towards China during the past few years. The Western market is drowning in old-fashioned bottles, and it can be revived by new fresh and modern ideas offered by new players in the market.
A group of French businessmen in cooperation with the largest and the most technologically advanced factories in China formed Rockwood & Hines Glass Group, specializing in production of quality, custom-made glass bottles for the High and Super High Premium alcohol segments. Over the past 5 years, the quality of Chinese-made glass has been improving, positioning China among the world’s top glass bottle manufacturers.
Henri Berthe, the CEO of Rockwood & Hines Glass Group, is confident that in a few years, China will be able to supply the world with bottles of exceptional quality. As of today, Berthe says that they have more than 50 North American customers, and the company expects to triple this number by 2013.
"U.S. entrepreneurs, from the spirit and wine industry come to see us looking for solutions," says Berthe. "In Europe and the USA, private molds cost more than $25,000, while in China, for the same mold, we charge only $3,500. U.S. and European companies require large volumes to produce these custom bottles, while in China we attract the professionals with small minimum runs of 25,000 bottles delivered within a few weeks, providing great quality at affordable prices."
He continues, "This is great news for the spirits industry that has always been controlled by giant groups. Now small size companies and start-ups can put all their creativity into conceiving exceptional packaging and compete with the major brands dominating the market. This is a revolution in the alcohol business! Consumers will benefit from lower prices resulting from lower production costs. Besides, distribution networks welcome new, modern and daring packaging."
China offers quality, decorated bottles with applied color labels in high quality glass. Berthe claims that the glass quality is close to crystal clear. Rockwood & Hines offers what is called Super Flint quality glass, which gives bottles a look of crystal. Some of the fanciest bottles have polished facets, using the same technique as in diamond workshops. The facets are polished by hand so that the edges are crisp and clean. This kind of decoration cannot be made anywhere other than China where labor is still inexpensive, the company claims.
Today, China offers a solution to U.S. companies in search of a new inspiration and ideas, exciting the customers with exclusive designs. According to Berthe, many US customers are very skeptical of Chinese quality, however, after visiting the modern glass production factories in China they usually change their minds.
In addition to glass production, Rockwood & Hines set up its private bottling factory with the purpose of extending the range of services offered to its customers by producing complete bottles and supplying high quality French imported alcohol including Vodka, Brandy and Wine. Rockwood says it is capable of producing a complete product, which makes it a one stop shop solution. These factors create a great opportunity for SMEs and start ups as they can enter a market with a small quantity for market trials at shortest period of time and at low costs. The bottling factory of Rockwood & Hines is located an hour away from Shanghai in the Special Exporting Zone. Being a part of this zone allows Rockwood to state only the origin of the alcohol on the bottles, for example, "Product of France."
The Chinese government has been actively encouraging the development of new industries during the past decade. Berthe predicts China will soon become a home for a number of world-famous alcohol brands, as local glass and bottling factories rapidly develop, advance and achieve European standards of production.