In keeping with its guiding principle of “L’Exception Durable” (Sustainable Exception), premium cognac brand Rémy Martin, part of Rémy Cointreau group, is also working to reduce the environmental impact of its packaging. This year, the brand began removing the secondary packaging of its VSOP Cognacs in a large number of markets, and plans to extend this project to all countries by 2024. Rémy Martin Packaging Development Director Claude Angelier speaks to Luxe Packaging Insight about this strategy, and the need to reinvent luxury codes.
What role does packaging play in reducing your environmental footprint?
As part of our aim to significantly reduce our carbon footprint over the next decade, packaging is a major focus as it accounts for 50% of Rémy Martin’s carbon footprint, from raw materials to end-of-life. Almost four years ago we implemented a system developed by Quantis to quantify the environmental impact of our products.
While Rémy Martin is directly concerned by global warming for its annual harvests, carbon footprint is not the only driver in our choice of packaging materials and processes. We also look at elements such as water toxicity and resource exhaustion.
This year Rémy Martin began eliminating secondary packaging in certain markets. What is behind this decision?
Yes, we are discontinuing folding gift boxes for the majority of our products. This initially concerns on-trade, as we believe that secondary packaging does not offer added value in this channel. Additionally, these boxes have not had a protective role to play for quite some time—the bottles inside are sufficiently solid so as to not require additional protection.
With regards to off-trade, we began discontinuing folding gift boxes in the US in March, and plan to roll out this approach to other markets. VSOP, which accounts for the bulk of our volumes, is the first range concerned, and we are also looking at discontinuing folding gift boxes for some other products.
In addition to being positive for the planet, discontinuing gift boxes will enable Rémy Martin to better highlight its proprietary bottles with their distinctive form.
What about your more prestige ranges?
While the protective function of folding gift boxes for bottles and some decanters is certainly traditional, it is not essential. However, for more sophisticated, prestige decanters, such as those in the Louis XIII range, protection remains necessary so we won’t be discontinuing gift boxes here.
What other areas are you looking at in terms of making your packaging more sustainable?
Other sustainable development axes include lightweighting materials, such as glass. A little over a year ago, we launched a new cognac, Tercet, in the US with a reduced weight of glass of 14% compared to the original design brief—a significant gain given that glass accounts for the majority of the packaging’s CO2 footprint.
Choice of materials is another area of development. We are working on using cellulose inserts in place of plastic, and other instances where we can replace plastic with cellulose, which is recyclable, renewable, and in certain applications, biodegradable.
We need to rethink the codes of luxury, to find other ways of interpreting the perceived value of a product and educate the consumer to appreciate luxury differently. Weight has long been synonymous with luxury, as have materials that are cold to the touch. Such materials are generally metal-based, a non-renewable material subject to production processes that emit high levels of CO2.
Despite the very singular Covid-19 context, this crisis may have a positive impact among consumers, who will be more open to changing their habits, which is positive for us.
How can your suppliers better help the brand to meet its sustainability targets?
While there are certainly sustainability developments on the supplier side—be it glassmakers or label manufacturers—these changes aren’t happening fast enough to enable us to achieve our environmental impact reduction goals. We need to go further, and are keeping a close eye on innovations both from our suppliers and in the packaging market in general. We are looking for techniques that disrupt traditional codes and we remain attentive to circular economy opportunities.