Wine Bottles, Wine Boxes, Wine Cans…. Oh My!! A Packaging Dilemma

By Rosemarie Szostak, Ph.D., Nerac Analyst

Originally Published May 23, 2022

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A box or carton or even an aluminum can does not represent a subtle change in protective packaging but rather a potential disruptive shift as the wine industry looks to improve its environmental footprint.

Packaging has two purposes: 1) to protect the product, and 2) to attract the eye of a consumer. Wineries, the most resistant market sector to change their, are now exploring alternative wine packaging to the iconic 750ml glass bottle. Considerations include boxes, cartons, plastic, and cans. So – How might a packaging company approach development in this market space in order to meet resulting business challenges and opportunities with success?

Say sample company, Smash-Box Packaging, has an innovative packaging technology which they are successfully marketing to the juice beverage sector. They suspect this technology would be of value to the wine industry, but they are unsure if this would be a worthwhile sector to pursue. So, they ask Nerac to provide them with high-level intelligence that can help them make a decision that is based on market trends towards alternative packaging for wine. Let’s explore how this information can protect, accelerate, and maximize business for Smash-Box Packaging.

Nerac Analyst Report

Wine Packaging

Aged-in-bottle wine is and will continue to be sold by the bottle and collected by the wine connoisseurs. But most wine is consumed shortly after purchase and price is a key factor here. Cheap wines (including cheap box wines) have seen sales decline where premium wine purchases increase as consumer palates evolve. The packaging war is in the premium wine sector where bottled wine sells for $12 to $25. A comparable wine in a box can be sold for 50-60% less due to reduced supply chain cost. This cost includes shipping weight, shipping volume, bottle breakage, and travel distance and more recently, recycling fees. A case of bottled wine weighs 40 pounds and contains 9 liters and is 50% wine / 50% packaging. Boxed wine can be shipped in the same case size but it weighs 26 pounds and contains 12 liters of wine. This allows producers to ship greater distances without having to significantly increase the cost of their wine. When it comes to evaluating the sustainability of wine, a 2020 California Wine Institute study found that traditional glass bottles account for 29% of the wine’s carbon footprint, and transportation of the bottles accounts for 13%. That means that nearly half the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine is directly impacted by its packaging and logistics. By going to alternative packaging, companies can significantly improve their bottom line while working towards their sustainability goals.

The young consumers including Millennials and GenZ are the growing target market. High quality at reduced price, convenience and shelf appeal matches their expectations, and, for many, lowering their environmental footprint is also a consideration since this population segment is extremely aware of environmental and social values. Market players are using alternative packaging, smaller portions, and advanced graphics to improve the aesthetic appeal of wine packaging while looking to improve on the recyclability potential of the packaging. These are the drivers to expand their consumer base to this population.

This consumer group was brought up on individual serving packaging such as individual juice boxes. Thus, wine packaged in cartons, pouches, or cans, in 2-glass servings, present agreeable alternatives to a bottle of wine which serves six, and once opened, is difficult to store over days before consuming completely without loss of quality.

Cans are rapidly gaining ground in the wine industry owing to a number of benefits, including consumer convenience, costs, and emphasis on sustainability. Cans are the most recycled of all the packaging options. Other advantages include rapid cooling which increases desirability for consumers who are in a hurry to have a nicely chilled glass of chardonnay after returning from the grocery or liquor store.

The wine in a bottle is no longer protected from the environment once it is opened. This is not the case for box or pouch wines where the polymer liner collapses as the wine is dispensed. This prevents oxidization and increases the wine’s shelf-life. Box wines maintain their attributes up to 6 weeks while a bottle, once opened, loses flavor after 2 days.

Box wine (also referred to as wine-on-tap) is a cost-effective choice for food and wine establishments where the beverage is sold by the glass. Significant waste reduction both in the amount of unconsumed wine discarded as well as empty bottles requiring additional recycle truck pick-ups, helps to normalize profit margins. These are serious drivers in support of wine-on-tap. It also allows the bar, pub, or restaurant to offer a greater selection of wines by the glass thus increasing customer selection choice and further improving profit.

Overall, all of these wine packaging alternatives can be taken anywhere alcoholic beverages are allowed while wine in glass is restricted in places like the beach, concerts, or sporting events.

The Players

The major wine packaging players are:

  • Amcor Packaging (pouches, bottles)
  • Ardagh Group (bottles, cans)
  • Ball Corporation (cans)
  • Encore Glass (glass)
  • G3 Enterprises (plastic kegs, glass)
  • International Paper
  • Liqui-Box Corporation (Dow Chemical Company) (bag-in-box)
  • Owens-Illinois Group (glass)
  • Saverglass SAS (glass)
  • Scholle Corporation (bag-in-box)
  • Tera Laval International (paper carton)
  • TricorBraun Inc. (glass)
  • And others

Today, the wine packaging market is highly fragmented due to the presence of a large number of small players that operate in regional markets and large players that have a global presence. The introduction of innovative methods of packaging that are not only convenient and attractive but also eco-friendly represents opportunities for packaging companies to enter this space.

 

The Organic Wine Market

Organic wines have gained significant penetration globally. Their popularity is owed to its health benefits, along with taste. E-commerce has made it accessible to consumers across various parts of the world. The global organic wine market size was estimated at $8.9 billion USD in 2021, and is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% from 2022 to 2030. A recent survey also showed that the consumers in the 21-35 age group buy “responsible” wine on a regular basis (22% in New York and 35% in Paris) than the older generation (15% in New York and 30% in Paris) and thus are gravitating to organic wines. For packaging of these wines, the bottles segment dominated the market and accounted for the largest revenue share of 91.7% in 2021. With the growth of on-line sales, and the desire for a cost-effective premium wine by the consumer matched with the desire of the target age group for a smaller environmental footprint, the organic wine sector may represent a good entry point for alternative packaging.

Some of the prominent players in the organic wine market include:

  • Avondale
  • Elgin Ridge Wines
  • Kendall-Jackson Winery
  • The Organic Wine Company
  • Bronco Wine Company
  • King Estate Winery
  • Grgich Hills Estate
  • Emiliana Organic Vineyards
  • Societa Agricola QuerciabellaSpA
  • Frey Vineyards

Conclusion

Today, alternative wine packaging is gaining momentum and positioned to set the worldwide wine industry on its ear. To enter this market, new and innovative packaging technology must improve:

  1. the right-sizing of the wine package;
  2. the customer’s desire to purchase a premium wine at a reasonable price;
  3. marketing edge, including shelf-recognition through innovative labeling; and
  4. minimizing expenses along the supply chain, from winery to consumer, as there is a significant cost reduction over glass bottles using alternative packaging especially for on-line sales.

Smash-Box’s innovative technology touches all four points. It is suggested that the organic wine market may be the easiest entry point to test the waters for the Smash-Box technology. Many of the major organic players noted in this article haven’t yet dipped their toes into the alternative packaging technology arena and may also be good candidates if Smash-Box technology is shown to be an order of magnitude above the present alternative technologies. Smash-Box can get ahead in terms of competitive edge if they market their packaging appropriately to the organic wine producers especially pointing to the millennials who are looking to purchase premium wine at a reasonable cost and a small environmental footprint. Success in this market sector may induce other players in the larger wine market to consider Smash-Box’s unique packaging product.

How Can Nerac Help?

Considering broadening your market space? Nerac can help you identify the best course for success. Our analysts are expert in identifying adjacent markets across all market spaces. We provide that independent third-party feasibility assessment. We can explore new B2B opportunities for you as well as assess competition and points of entry to those markets.

So, you can kick back, pour yourself that glass of premium wine from a box or a can and relax, because Nerac has your back. Contact us here to learn more.

References

2020 California Wine Institute study
Wine Folly
Modor Intelligence 2022
GrandView Research 2022

About the Analyst

Rosemarie Szostak, Ph.D.

Rosemarie Szostak, Ph.D., advises companies on technology, patents, innovation and disruptive technology. She has 20 plus years of experience as a thought leader and analyst with broad technical knowledge in chemistry, materials and chemical engineering.

Academic Credentials

  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Chemical Engineering Department, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California Los Angeles
  • M.S., Chemistry/Physics, Georgetown University

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