In an interesting development, Vinventions, the parent company that purchased the leading synthetic wine closure company Nomacorc earlier this year, has acquired Rudolf Ohlinger, a screwcap and natural cork manufacturer/distributor. This marks the beginning of the diversification of Vinventions, away from being a single closure-type company – and this is a significant step.
Nomacorc has been one of the most forward thinking wine closure companies over the last few years. Their current products are miles away from the plastic corks of old, and they have continued to innovate cleverly. In reaction to the criticism of the green credentials of plastic, they brought out the Bio, of which a large proportion is made from plant-derived polymers. They have also championed the idea of using closures with specific tailored oxygen transmission levels to suit different wine styles – the Select Series. And Nomacorc have been very successful, with sales of 2 billion closures a year.
However, there are long-term threats associated with a single closure strategy like this. In particular, Nomacorc’s biggest competitor is the screwcap. Once a bottling line has switched to screwcap, it’s very unlikely to switch back to in-neck closures such as natural or synthetic cork. And screwcaps are cheap, and now come with a range of new liners with targeted oxygen transmission levels. The other threat is that Nomacorc’s success has been quite market- and segment-dependent. It is unlikely that anyone in Australia or New Zealand (where screwcaps have the vast majority of the market), or Burgundy or Bordeaux (where natural cork rules, at least at the mid to high end) is going to start switching to synthetics, no matter how good they are. And almost all fine wine is natural cork sealed.
In January this year, Bespoke Capital Partners and the founder and chairman of Nomacorc, Marc Noël, bought Nomacorc from Summit Partners, taking full ownership of the company. This consortium then became Vinventions, and until recently Vinventions was effectively Nomacorc.
But last week, Vinventions announced that they had purchased Rudolf Ohlinger. This company is the main distributor of wine closures in Germany, and has just launched in Italy. But more than this, it is also a manufacturer of screwcaps (Weincap) and natural cork (Ohlinger recently bought Juvenal, a cork manufacturing company in South Africa) – and is the exclusive distributor of VinoLok (which since 2011 has been owned by and manufactured by glass company Preciosa).
‘Yes, we are indeed diversifying,’ says Dr Heino Freudenberg of Vinventions. ‘Vinventions will become the most innovative and trusted supplier of complete wine closures solutions to the still and sparkling wine industry. This will include not only the world-renown synthetic closures of Nomacorc, but also high-end natural corks, screwcaps and glass closures – supported by holistic service packages.’
The significance is that this once single-closure company has recognized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sealing wine bottles, and -depending on the wine style and the market demands – different closures may be appropriate for different wines. It’s a very smart strategy that puts Nomacorc (or its parent company to be more accurate), in a strong position for the future. ‘Customers prefer to buy all closures from one trusted hand, who can support the choice which closure to choose in detail for which wine as well as the implementation at the bottling line,’ says Freudenberg.