The whirlwind of the holidays means big business for luxury brands, who spend all year planning the decadent packaging and glitzy packaging that defines the modern gift box. But one luxury champagne brand is consciously avoiding all that fuss, with a mandate to eliminate unnecessary gift boxes, as part of its mission to mainstream sustainable practices.
Telmont Champagne House, which counts among its partners the spirits conglomerate Remy Cointreau and actor-turned-climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio, is over a hundred years old and now incorporates sustainability into as many parts of its business model as possible. Ludovic du Plessis, a veteran luxury spirits executive, invested in the family house three years ago and is now its chairman and CEO. Sous du Plessis, the brand focuses as much on making wine as it does on reducing its carbon footprint.
One of Telmont’s most visible gestures is the lack of special gift sets, at a large zig from its peers’ holiday collections.
The “no gift boxes” initiative is actually over a year old, having debuted in June 2021, alongside other strategies including switching to clear glass bottles (which have no recycled glass ) to test an ambitious plan to rreduce the weight of their glass bottlesand therefore reduce shipping costs and carbon footprint.
“It’s a common sense decision,” said du Plessis, CEO and chairman of Telmont, of the removal of gift boxes. “I don’t see any other way to do it.”
“You look at your carbon footprint and say, do we need these gift boxes?” he says. By eliminating cumbersome packaging, the carbon impact of each bottle has been reduced by 8%.
Du Plessis did not move things lightly. “I come from the luxury industry, so I know gift sets are important,” he says. “It looks like quality, sophistication.”
But he notes, what’s the point of packaging that will end up being thrown away? Telmont bottles are presented in no-frills retail stores and, if ordered online, arrive in a standard delivery box. “The best packaging is without packaging. Do we need it? asks du Plessis. “We make champagne, we don’t make gift boxes. We need to reduce our footprint. Do not choose a gift box and make a gift for the planet.
The brand also offers a range of sparkling wines, including a non-vintage, a reserve rosé and a blanc de blancs.
Du Plessis notes that sales this past holiday season were unaffected by the lack of gift wrap. The lack of packaging may even generate its own buzz, du Plessis citing the positive feedback it has received from retailers, sommeliers and consumers. “The impact of sales last October, November, December – sales continue to grow,” he says. “No impact at all.”
Du Plessis acknowledges that his project is one house among many, but there are signs that the rest of the industry is catching on. Rival Ruinart, for example, launched sustainable and recyclable “second skin” packaging and, like Telmont, now only transports bottles by sea, not air.
“Other companies will take this step [to more sustainable packaging] when they can,” says du Plessis. “It’s hard to change, so I’m not criticizing anyone. Everyone will go their own way. But I think there’s a snowball effect [towards sustainability] in the Champagne sector. I can feel it.”