Surrounded by the great and the good of the UK’s wine industry, Jim Rankin opened the inaugural Rankin Brothers and Sons packaging symposium on Thursday 8 February 2018. Hosted at Rathfinny Estate, Alfriston, East Sussex, the event was designed to bring together producers, industry advisors and the supply chain.

“We are at a very exciting point in the development of the UK’s wine industry,” said Jim Rankin, commercial director at Rankin Bros and Sons. “With the investment into new plantings and wineries continuing at a pace, the industry needs a strong supply chain. We created this symposium to demonstrate the capabilities, to showcase packaging and design innovation and to understand the needs of the producers.”

With involvement from Avery Dennison, Boxes and Packaging, the Brand Foundry, Cork Supply, Estal, Royston and Sparflex, the world of design through to glass, cork, foils and boxes were on hand to discuss how they could best support and protect producers’ brands.

After a series of trade presentations, over 80 guests enjoyed a talk from Will Mower on the transformation and developments at Rathfinny before sampling the estate’s 2016 Cradle Valley Pinot blanc Pinot gris blend, followed by a further chance for networking, catching up with friends and browsing the latest packaging developments.

Rankin Brothers and Sons

The independent, family managed business has been supporting the beers, wines and spirits industries since 1774. Suppliers of corks, closures and merchandising, Rankin provides wine producers across England and Wales with an extensive menu of choice when it comes to selecting the right corks, foils, wire hoods and capsules.

Dedicated to ensuring that the industry has access to the best raw materials, Rankin is the only UK based cork company to own and manage 4,500 acres of cork forestry in the Ribatejo region of Portugal.

“We are looking after and managing the forest in the right way and have a vigorous replanting programme,” said Jim Rankin. “Over the last five years we have been investing in drought and disease resistant stocks and replanting at a rate of 800 new saplings per year. We are also investing in stocks which can compress and reduce the lifecycle from acorn to production, as it currently takes 43 years before we can harvest production cork.”

To best serve the industry, Rankin has also developed a number of supply chain partnerships as well as being the UK distributor for Cork Supply. They work with the Sparflex group, to promote and distribute their products to the UK market which now also includes Rivercap’s tin capsules used to add value to premium still wines.

“In the past three years we have appointed three new business development managers to meet with customers and develop an understanding of their businesses and needs,” said Jim. “We have also added to and invested in the materials development team as innovation remains key to the success of the on going conversations we have with customers.”


One of the leading manufacture’s of foils, the Sparflex team were showcasing the group’s range of new technologies and materials which help producers to effectively communicate and connect with their customers.

Tapping into the world of digital printing, Creative Digital from Sparflex allows for small scale, highly personalised runs with intense colours enabling the reproduction of even the most elaborate designs on sleeve foils and wire hoods.

“We are convinced that consumer markets are going to demand increasingly refined packaging,” said Julie Renault at Sparflex. “Creative Digital gives the ability to have different designs in one box and because the foils can be customised on the front and back we can create a peel to reveal finish which is a great way to incorporate targeted messages and forge a special relationship with your customers.”

For vineyards who are keen to look after the environment and are conscious of sustainability and their carbon footprint, after eight years of research and development Sparflex launched its Absolute Green Line range. With renewable materials replacing oil and solvents, the Absolute Green Line foil combines bio-based polyethylene (PE) with acrylic and water-based inks.

“Choosing Absolute Green Line means selecting packaging in line with your values and actively contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint of your wines,” said Julie. “It is the answer for winemakers who want to satisfy the requirements of increasingly environmentally aware consumers helping to preserve resources and respect the terroirs.” 

Cork Supply

Global renowned Cork Supply was founded in 1981 to supply premium quality natural corks for the world’s finest wines. Today the firm produces around 350 million natural cork stoppers and 100 million technical corks per year, offering customers a comprehensive collection which is distributed in the UK through Rankin Brothers and Sons.

From the forest to the bottle, Cork Supply is dedicated to making the most of the finest cork wood to ensure the highest standards and customer satisfaction. With 12% of Cork Supply employees also dedicated to research and development and quality control the firm has been widely recognised for its revolutionary industry expectations.

“The wine often spends more time in contact with the cork than with the winemaker,” said Margarita Alejos at Cork Supply. “So, we are working tirelessly to ensure that the cork is perfect and there is a lot of investment into R&D to provide a good product.”

While Trichloroanisole (TCA) taint is one of the biggest issues facing the cork industry, Cork Supply has been working tirelessly to find solutions to combat this problem. As well as rigorous quality control with corks inspected to guarantee the absence of TCA and other unwanted aromas, Cork Supply has also developed a new closure, called Vinc, which is produced from high quality raw materials with a TCA free guarantee.

The Brand Foundry

Having cut its teeth on creating own label wine brands for the major supermarkets, over the years the Brand Foundry has worked with large and small wine and spirit producers from Australia to Chile and from Louth to London.

“Brands are about loyalty and helping customers to associate it with quality, reliability and prestige,” said Mike Axford director of the Brand Foundry. “Your brand is not just the logo or the label but the DNA of your product.”

Looking at the psychology of design, consumers tap into shared visual values allowing producers to tell a story, attract clients and build an immediate connection through quality branding and design.

“Great brands are created from quality graphics being used consistently with customer recognition helping to drive sales,” said Mike. “The UK wine industry is a growing sector and competition is getting tough. Producers should not be asking is my branding good enough but is my branding what it needs to be.”

For producers who feel the branding is tired the Brand Foundry can help to either revitalise or completely rebrand to ensure that when the industry and other producers move forwards your brand doesn’t get left behind.