THE RECENT spectacle of Vinho do Porto (port wine) bottles sealed with plastic stoppers triggered such alarm in the cork industry that the sector has decided to launch a concerted counter-attack against its rivals.
Now, an international campaign is afoot to promote and advertise cork among wholesalers and international consumers. The scheme set to prioritise markets in the UK, the USA and Australia, is the response from the Associação Portuguesa da Cortiça (APCOR), the Portuguese Cork Association, to its competitors, particularly its plastic rivals, which they claim “have promoted a negative image of the cork stopper in strategic markets”. With a total investment of around three million euros, 30 per cent of it from private finance, the APCOR initiative has the support of Investimento, Comércio e Turismo (ICEP Portugal), the operational arm of the Ministry of Commerce, and is also aligned to various promotional strategies by Portuguese wine companies.
APCOR claim the cork stopper’s bad publicity could adversely influence the country’s wine growing sector. The cork industry, in which Portugal is the biggest worldwide producer and distributor, contributes to around three per cent of Portugal’s total exports and the cork stopper alone is responsible for 75 per cent of national cork exports.
With production above 15 billion cork stoppers every year and 20,000 jobs involved, the cork sector is now trying to combat the growing popularity of the plastic stopper, a development that would jeopardise all the industry’s recent modernisation efforts.