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Premium spirits: Sansoar's approach to quality control

Katie Nichol

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Premium spirits: Sansoar's approach to quality control

With more than 40 years experience in the cork industry, Portuguese packaging solutions provider Sansoar monitors production quality in Portugal and Spain, mainly in the cork stopper segment, but also wooden or metal caps and glass and crystal decanters. We spoke with Sansoar purchasing and procurement manager João dos Santos about the specificities of quality control in the closures segment.

In terms of quality control inspection, what defects are you looking for? Does this vary according to brand?

Each customer has different quality parameters. Put simply, the expectations of the product must be consistent with the purchase price. Our intervention is about securing production at the best quality/price as well as making sure the different stages of the project are always delivered on time.

For the luxury market, quality and creativity are of course much more of a priority than in mass; the question of price is the last element to be taken into account. In luxury, every project is exclusive, has a story to tell and each one is a challenge and so no defects are acceptable.

Can you give us an example of a project in the premium sector?

We work with Scottish glass manufacturer Glencairn Crystal, with whom we have an exclusive agreement for purchasing and procurement of luxury packaging components. Almost 10 years ago, Glencairn decided to have someone "on the ground" to monitor production at each of its suppliers, in Portugal, Spain and other countries, focusing on small quantities for limited editions. Glencairn trained me for this for almost three years; to think like them with a "luxury mind", which shows the attention they give to the components for their limited editions.

Sansoar has a specific expertise in the sealing of custom bottles, namely blown crystal decanters. Those recipients, being one of a kind and manually produced, can be quite challenging due to unexpected variations of diameter from neck to neck. Glencairn’s Pagoda Ruby Reserve for Glenfarclas is no exception. We need to be involved in the whole process, from the design and shape of the decanter to the market and user profiles, to be able to propose a stopper that will protect such rare products.

How does “human” quality control on the ground compare to what technology and AI can offer? Are both essential?

All the brands we work with implement both systems: machine vision and human selection. In my opinion, one does not replace the other; they must be used together for efficient results.

For a limited-edition production run, it’s slightly different; automatic sorting machines are not used and more people are. To give you an example in the cork segment, to produce 100 corks of the best quality available, with total traceability from the forest, controlled one by one with all laboratory tests, it is necessary to produce around 10,000 corks. In this case, the price per unit can easily reach €15 depending on the dimensions. But keep in mind, these stoppers are generally destined for decanters that cost at least €15,000!

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