Courtesy Dwell Development Net-zero residence with cork façade.

Courtesy Dwell Development Net-zero residence with cork façade.

A decade ago, cork was in crisis. Though the material had been used in wine bottles for centuries, the Portuguese cork industry—which supplies most of its raw material for use in wine bottles—was facing stiff competition from manufacturers of plastic and metal screw-caps, which were gaining in popularity due to increasing instances of “corked” bottles.

The reduced demand for cork led to an industry-wide recalibration. “What we have witnessed in the last 10 to12 years in the cork industry is a real revolution,” said Antonio Rios de Amorim, president of the leading cork producer, Corticeira Amorim, in a July 2017 Forbes interview. Corticeira Amorim and other Portuguese cork suppliers took a hard look at both quality control and market factors and decided to make significant changes. “The cork industry really questioned itself,” Rios de Amorim said. “We started to innovate, started to introduce new technologies.”

And the result? Today, cork has rebounded thanks to three critical factors: higher quality processed material, increased public awareness about its environmental performance, and market diversification to sectors including architecture and design.