When UC Berkeley graduate student Julius Fessler founded Berkeley Yeast Lab in 1933, it was the end of Prohibition and the beginning of a new era. His vision, along with UC Wine Yeast Library, was to establish an independent wine laboratory for a renewed industry. When the lab was purchased by the Scott family in 1963, Scott Laboratories was born.
Today, the company calls its newly opened, 85,000-square-foot Petaluma headquarters home, as well as satellite offices in Healdsburg and Paso Robles, Calif. Its sister company, Scott Labs Canada, began in Ontario in 1969. Overall, the company employs just over 100 people.
Throughout the years, Scott Laboratories has been best known for its fermentation products, which still make up the bulk of its business. But it also offers a wide range of other items and services, including corks and packaging (natural cork, screw caps, wire hoods, and tin capsules), and wine processing equipment. Its cork program began in 1978, and the company is the sole, independent American cork vendor in the industry. Its cork is sourced from medium-sized suppliers in Portugal, where every lot is kept separate and is carefully SPME tested for TCA, both in Portugal and again when it reaches North America. “One of the best kept secrets of Scott Labs is our cork program,” says CEO Zack Scott. “Our commitment to quality and to providing the best corks to the highest-end customers in the industry has never wavered.”
Having been in business for 85 years, the company has seen a wide range of changes over time. “It’s the dynamic nature of the industry that continues to energize us as a supplier,” says Scott. “Consumer trends and decisions in wine style teeter-totter constantly, which can affect product selection from our fermentation offerings [Chardonnay with more or less butter, for example]. Our range of products is varied enough to easily cater to these shifts in preference.”
Most recently, Scott says he’s noticed a trend toward alternate packaging options. “Screwcaps continue to gain acceptance as an alternative closure to natural cork, especially in early-to-market wines. We’ve also been a driver of many innovations through the years. Scott Labs was the inventor of the plastic Champagne cork, the first company to test for TCA in cork, and the first company to introduce synthetic cork.
“In the equipment sector, we’ve seen major shifts in method, and therefore products, over the last 10 to 20 years. The rise of crossflow technology in filtration continues to grow and now represents the vast majority of wine filtration—yet, in 2001, was considered taboo,” he says.
The company is currently working diligently to roll out a new website and e-commerce platform by the 2018 harvest. “Our ongoing goal is to maximize customers’ access to information, whether it’s centered around products, technical resources, or logistical data,” says Scott. “The new website will also have a robust compliance system. Our goal is to shoulder the burden of managing the information needed in today’s winery setting [compliance, lot tracking, anti-terrorism data, and so forth].”
And while most of the company’s products and services are focused on the wine industry, it’s recently seen increased demand for its cider, beer, and spirits products. “Over the last five years, our cider business has grown tremendously. While our portfolio for beer and spirits are smaller, we continue to be one of the most dominant players in filtration for those sectors,” says Scott. “Also on the horizon are developments of natural, anti-microbial products that minimize the use of more classical and potential allergen-based products.”
As the industry continues to grow and change, Scott Laboratories is focused on providing the products and services its customers need to be successful now and in years to come.