Business

Repour wine saver, manufactured in Hiawatha, grows customer base

Wineries sign up for private labeling

Tom Lutz developed the Repour Smart Stopper,. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Tom Lutz developed the Repour Smart Stopper,. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Two years after it officially hit the market, a wine preservation device developed in Cedar Rapids enjoys expanding domestic and international sales.

Repour wine saver was developed by Tom Lutz, a chemist, to solve the problem of wine going bad after a bottle is opened.

“When wine is exposed to oxygen it deteriorates, altering the taste and aroma, eventually producing the vinegar taste we often associate with wine gone bad,” Lutz said. “A Repour stopper contains a Food and Drug Administration-approved oxygen absorber that absorbs any oxygen in the bottle.”

Repour continues to absorb oxygen from the air above the wine for as long as the bottle is in use.

Repour wine savers initially were manufactured and assembled at BeraTek Industries in Cedar Rapids. As demand for the product grew rapidly, Lutz outsourced production in Omaha.

After purchasing the necessary injection molding equipment, Lutz established a manufacturing and assembly facility about a year ago in Hiawatha.

“We’ve invested in a bigger mold, which does three-shot molding,” he said. “It provides a higher part count per minute and a little bit more consistency in the product that comes out.

“Everything is done here — product development, manufacturing and shipping.”

Outsourcing the manufacture of Repour provided some challenges, he recalled.

“When you use a third party, you kind of have to place purchase orders based on what you think you are going to need,” he said. “We sell a single, four-pack, 10-pack and a big 72-pack.

“There’s the everyday consumer who enjoys wine at home, bars and restaurants, and wine distributors who have sales reps with bags that they tote around everywhere.”

Lutz said custom or private labeling of Repour wine savers has opened a new sales channel.

“Wineries are looking to use Repour for their wine clubs,” he said. “A number of these wine clubs have thank-you gifts once a quarter or year for their members ... .”

Lutz said the custom labeling is possible because of a collaboration with Cedar Crest Manufacturing, a Cedar Rapids-based promotional products company primarily manufacturing pens and pencils displaying names and logos.

A Kickstarter campaign in 2016 to raise initial funding for Repour generated international interest.

“We are selling into Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and a little bit into Taiwan and Thailand,” he said. “We also are selling into Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, a little bit into France and South Africa.

“We also have a distributor in Chile and we have begun discussion with some people in Italy.”

Right now, though, he said, “Our sales are primarily coastal in nature with California, New York and Florida probably the biggest markets right now.”

Lutz said the endorsements of lengthy list of master sommeliers “has been very humbling.”

“They are the ones telling others about Repour,” he said. “One of the most iconic wineries in California’s Napa Valley is Chateau Montelena.

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“Their winemaker loves it and uses it to save bottles of wine in its winery. The MGM properties in Las Vegas also are using Repour in their bars and restaurants.”

Lutz said staffing to meet product demand has been one of his biggest challenges.

“We go in waves where we might get an order for 50,000 stoppers,” he said. “That’s a big demand, and then we might go back to the traditional 2,000 stoppers a day.”

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