Shaken and stirred: War in Ukraine hits James Bond’s glassmaker


A worker inspects a machine at French glassmaker Duralex’s factory in La Chapelle Saint-Mesmin, central France, Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Iconic French tableware brand Duralex joins a growing number of European companies that reduce and stop production due to soaring energy costs. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)


For the glassmakers of the iconic French tableware brand Duralex, mornings have become a horror show. Daily updates from energy traders pour into their inboxes, showing the suffocating rise in natural gas and electricity prices that fuel their energy-guzzling business.

Prior to Europe’s energy crisis – which took off after the COVID-19 pandemic and became an economic threat in its own right with Russia’s war in Ukraine – price charts were reassuringly stable. They have since become a terrifying succession of peaks and troughs, with Russia choking off supplies of cheap natural gas in a battle of wills with European leaders over their support for Ukraine.

For Duralex, each price spike represents another bite out of the bottom line of the 77-year-old company that counts generations of French families, Mongolian yak herders, Afghan diners and African tea drinkers among global users of his glasses, bowls and plates. Actor Daniel Craig drank from one of his ‘Picardy’ tumblers, with a scorpion on his wrist, when he played James Bond in ‘Skyfall’.

As energy costs deplete cash reserves and the company’s viability, Duralex President José-Luis Llacuna takes drastic but, he hopes, economical measures: he shuts down production. The thundering machines that turn glowing drops of molten glass into hundreds of thousands of tableware items every day will go silent for a few months on November 1.

Duralex will join a growing number of European companies that have reduced and stopped production because they are wasting money on the energy needed to keep running.

“The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is look at the daily evolution of electricity and gas prices,” Llacuna said in an interview at the factory near Orléans in the center of France.

“Needless to say, there is an incredible amount of volatility,” he added. “It really is a roller coaster, and the prospects for the future are a complete unknown.”

Faced with the risks of electricity shortages, rationing and blackouts when demand increases this winter and an expected recession with the closure of businesses, Europe is scrambling to find energy alternatives, stockpiling gas and urges consumers to save. European Union energy ministers are holding emergency talks on Friday on the bloc’s latest proposals to ease the crisis.

At Duralex, the costs of heating the kiln to over 1,400 degrees Celsius (above 2,500 Fahrenheit) with roaring torrents of flaming gas and turning molten glass into tableware on production lines manned by workers in Sweat would burn 40% of the company’s revenue if it continues to produce, “which is unsustainable,” Llacuna said.

The production shutdown will last at least four months. The glass furnace cannot be completely switched off as this could destroy it. Instead, it will be kept in a warm sleep, halving the company’s power consumption. The goal is to then turn it back on in the spring.

In the meantime, the 250 employees will work fewer days, with wage cuts at the very time when inflation is eating away at household budgets.

“It’s very difficult to digest,” said Michel Carvalho, a production line team leader who has been with the company for 17 years.

“All over the world, everyone is suffering from this war,” he said. “We are hostages. Absolutely. We are used. Because being asked to stop working is hard. And we are not responsible for what happens.

Duralex will fall back on its inventory to ensure supply to customers during the shutdown. But competitors are circling, using the production shutdown as an argument to try to lure the company’s customers, Llacuna said. He is knocking on government doors for financial help, speaking to France’s economy minister by phone last week.

A prolonged energy crisis, Llacuna warned, could be grim.

“It doesn’t have to be three years,” he said. “Because then European industry will die, and it will be dramatic.”


Follow AP coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at

This story was originally published September 9, 2022 2:51 a.m.

Lynn A. Saleh