LISBON—The cork industry is searching for PR firms to support a new €7m drive that aims to sustain its recovery after years of sluggish sales because of competition from metal screwcaps on wine bottles.

The Intercork II project is being launched by APCOR, the trade body which represents cork producers in Portugal, who account for more than 50 percent of the world's cork market.

The new programme follows the first Intercork project, which hired Grayling in 2009 to support a larger €21m euro drive that helped to arrest declining sales.

Portugese cork exports grew four percent to reach €850m in 2012. The industry is aiming to total €1bn by 2015.

Cork is a critical industry in Portugal, accounting for more than two percent of the country's total exports. However, competition from screwcaps has seen exports drop in recent years until Intercork 1 ushered in a modest revival.

The new project again aims to prove that cork is a superior alternative to metal screwcaps, while also building cork's case as a building material. 

More than €4m has been earmarked for the agency tender, which cals for a broad range of services, including strategic planning, advertising, PR, brand marketing and media monitoring. 

Agencies have been asked to tender for specific geographic markets. More than a quarter of the budget has been set aside for the US and Canada, where Apcor will promote both cork stoppers and building materials.

Other key markets include France, which is Portugal's number one cork export market, along with Germany, Italy and China. New markets in Intercork II include Brazil and Scandinavia.

 “With InterCork ll we will have the opportunity to continue our actions of communication in the international markets," said APCOR chairman Joao Rui Ferreira. "Communication is the main strength of our activities, and the key factor for the recognition of cork and its different applications.”

The campaign will focus on consumers and opinion leaders, building on research that has identified that 83 percent of consumers prefer cork. Key messages will continue to focus on cork's unique ability to improves wine, improve the environment and improve a wine's image. 

The tender is expected to close at the end of this month ahead of the campaign launch at the start of 2014.