• Mother of Pearl co-founders Nic Hancock and Nicola Thompson Hancock.
    Mother of Pearl co-founders Nic Hancock and Nicola Thompson Hancock.
  • Mother of Pearl’s Vodka of the Sea and new Gin of the Sea in paper Frugal Bottles at ‘GDay by the Bay.’
    Mother of Pearl’s Vodka of the Sea and new Gin of the Sea in paper Frugal Bottles at ‘GDay by the Bay.’

The owner of award-winning Australian drinks brand Mother of Pearl Vodka is purchasing Australia’s first Frugalpac paper bottle machine, with the aim to provide an end-to-end bottling solution for wine and spirit brands in Australia and Southeast Asia seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Melbourne-based company, which already sells its IWSC award-winning grape-based vodka in the paper Frugal Bottle, has signed a letter of intent with the bottle’s producer, British sustainable packaging company Frugalpac, to buy its Frugal Bottle Assembly Machine. 

Mother of Pearl gin and vodka brands now in the Frugal Bottle.
Mother of Pearl gin and vodka brands now in the Frugal Bottle.

The machine will be built by Frugalpac in Ipswich, UK and shipped to the company's bottling facility and distillery in Truganina, Victoria, with the line set to be up and running by early 2025. The line's capacity is 2.5 million paper bottles a year and, once installed, the company will be able to make and fill Frugal Bottles for other drinks brands looking to cut their carbon.

PKN spoke to Nic Hancock, who runs Mother of Pearl with co-founder Nicola Thompson Hancock, about what motivated this investment and the company's next steps.

Hancock, who hails from a career in the hospitality industry and knows first hand the value and convenience of lightweight packaging for events and the travel industry, said that the paper bottle has 'tremendous' sustainability benefits, especially when made and assembled locally.  

“We were proud to be the first Australian producers to use the Frugal Bottle for our premium grape-based vodka but we won’t be the last.

“And we don’t just want to keep this low carbon packaging to ourselves. Sustainability is hugely important to us and we believe every wine and spirit brand in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia should be given the chance to decarbonise their bottles like us.”

To this end, the founders have established Paper Bottles as a subsidiary entity to Mother of Pearl Vodka, which will operate the contract filling concern out of the Truganina premises.

Weighing just 83g (before filled), the Frugal bottles have a food grade aluminium pouch inside, similar to those used in bag-in-box wine, to contain the liquid and also offer 360° branding for exceptional, impactful shelf presence. The flat pack for the re-assembled bottles will be locally printed, with designs adapted to optimise branding once the bottle is formed.

The Mother of Pearl stand at the G'Day at the Bay event in Singapore.
The Mother of Pearl stand at the G'Day at the Bay event in Singapore.

According to Frugalpac, Frugal Bottles are made from 94 per cent recycled cardboard, and as such are five times lighter and have a carbon footprint six times lower than glass bottles – using less energy to produce, transport and dispose of than glass equivalents.

The announcement about the machine purchase was made at the Austrade ‘G’Day by the Bay’ event at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on 23 February to highlight a select group of Australian companies showcasing innovations in sustainability including Mother of Pearl Vodka and Qantas Airways. The theme of the event was ‘Transitioning to a New Future.’

Hancock says they had such a great reception when they launched it at Bar Convent in Singapore last year, they’re now releasing a Gin of the Sea and plan to launch a range of wines in the Frugal Bottle too.

More than 35 different drinks producers from around the world have launched 128 different SKUs of wines, spirits and olive oils in the Frugal Bottle since 2020.

Co-founder and business development director, Nicola Thompson Hancock added: “We’ve always wanted our vodka to stand out from the rest. It’s naturally gluten free vodka with zero sugar, made in Melbourne from late-off-the-vine pinot gris grapes for a full-bodied flavour.

“But just as important to us, is how its presented. The Frugal Bottle, as well as having exceptional eco-credentials, offers the ability to design all across the bottle so you can stand out on shelf, on the table or by the pool.

“The reception to us launching our vodka in a paper bottle has been astounding and inspired us to expand our range into gin and wines. So it was a no brainer to decide to buy our own machine. We can’t wait to help other brands make the switch to paper too.”

Malcolm Waugh, CEO of British sustainable packaging firm Frugalpac said: “We’re very excited that Mother of Pearl Vodka have signed a letter of intent to buy our Frugal Bottle Assembly Machine.

“Australia and Southeast Asia are huge markets for wines and spirits and over the last year we’ve been inundated with requests for paper bottles. Mother of Pearl’s commitment to buy their own Frugal Bottle machine will put them in a great place to meet this demand.

“More than 35 drinks brands are already using the Frugal Bottle. Nic and Nicola's commitment to the Frugal Bottle Assembly Machine will bring the paper bottle revolution to the southern hemisphere and increase this number substantially.”

Last year Frugalpac sold two Frugal Bottle Assembly Machines to North America. The first to KinsBrae Packaging in Ontario, Canada and the second to the Monterey Wine Company in California.

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