The Changing Shape of Wine

by Paul & Jennifer Tincknell

The times they are a-changing. Back in the late 90’s we wrote a few op-eds about how for wine to reach more customers it had to break out of the glass bottle closed with a cork or stopper. Since then Tincknell & Tincknell has been working with companies to bring wine forth in all sorts of new, alternative, innovative, creative packaging. As noted before here, we helped Black Box – the first fine wine 3-L boxed wine in the U.S. – along with many smaller companies that have given it the go. Some of those efforts succeeded (Black Box, obviously), others provided the ground work for later success (Blackburn, launched by Delicato Family Vineyards, who are leaders in fine wine 3-L boxed wines with their Bota Box wines), and others that made a valiant go, were ahead of their time, and are fondly remembered by their fans (and us).

T&T are still helping to get boxed wines started, and interest remains high in the package from both consumers and wineries. Sales of 3-L boxed wines were up 19% in 2010, and 16% in 2011 – pretty impressive. There is still plenty of room for more 3-L boxed wine brands.

The 2013 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium was held this week, the highlight being two days of the industry’s biggest trade show. Among the vineyard and winery equipment are many packaging supply vendors, from bottles to boxes, and much much more. The much much more is what is becoming the most dynamic sector in the wine industry.

The “successor” to the 3-L boxed wine could be claimed by the 3-L rigid pouch, of which Astrapouch is a leading vendor. Clif Family’s The Climber wines are one of the more prominent brands on retail shelves. Along with the rigid pouch, more flexible pouches in various sizes are debuting.

House Band Wines Flexible 375-ml Wine PouchTincknell & Tincknell assisted the launch of House Band Wines’ flexible 375-ml wine pouch closed by a screw cap (shown on our Alternative Packaging web page). Virtually indestructible, it provides a convenient package for those situations where glass or larger volumes aren’t practical: beach, camping, music concerts and festivals, picnics, sports games and tailgate parties, etc. For House Band Wines, the wines are sold as individual pouches or in 4-pack retail cartons, the latter equaling two 750-ml bottles of wine.

Astrapouch displayed 3-L rigid pouches at Unified, as well as 1.5-L, 375-ml, and 187-ml pouches, along with prototype filling equipment for the small-serve flexible pouches. Tincknell & Tincknell have proposed to assist Astrapouch with developing unique design work for future brands, either as brand extensions or new pouch-only brands.

Sharing Astrapouch’s Unified trade booth was one of the more innovative wine keg delivery systems on the market by Torr Industries. Instead of using gas to force wine through a dispensing system (like a tap in a bar), Torr uses air to compress a bladder that squeezes a 9-L wine bag into the dispenser – eliminating any potential issues from wine coming into contact with nitrogen (which can, if not properly calibrated, add a little spritz to a tap-poured glass of wine) or oxygen (which would oxydize the wine). The on-premise establishment either buys or leases the Torr keg and air compressor units (or a winery could subsidize them too), and the winery sells and ships the 9-L bags of wine in simple corrugated cardboard cases to the on-premise account. The keg never gets dirty – since wine is never in the keg, but in the bag in the keg – and only the 9-L bag needs to be exchanged. 9-L’s of wine is only a little over 10 lbs. in weight … versus the 35 – 40 lbs. that a case of 12 750-ml glass bottles normally weighs. Furthermore, just like the 3-L boxed wine, the wine stays fresh from first glass to last in the Torr wine keg dispenser.

Alternative wine packaging also now has its own star in James Martin of Copa di Vino. The company’s single-serve, 187-ml wine glass has been growing at a fast rate both in number of markets and cases. The company will be expanding selection and launching a new glass shape in the future.

So what does this all mean? Wine is finally joining the other beverage markets, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, in providing convenience packaging. In 2011 6% of all wine in the U.S. was sold in non-glass containers. The one-size-fit-all 750-ml glass bottle isn’t going away, but it has been changing too – with the burgeoning growth of screw-cap closed wines. (And let us acknowledge the few sparkling wines that have dared to sell with crown caps instead of cork or stopper closures). But for wine to expand in the market it had to become, and needs to become even more convenient. Younger generations are not as concerned with packaging traditions when it comes to enjoying wine in casual social situations. They want to be able to enjoy wine more easily in those times where wine is appropriate, whether it is a casual evening together and boxed wine provides the convenience, or whether it is in a situation where the package must also be the drinking vessel as a plastic wine glass, Tetra Pak®, flexible pouch, plastic bottle, aluminum bottle, or aluminum can.

Alternative wine packaging is also meeting a contemporary issue head on; whether one subscribes to climate change, many consumers are very focused on being environmentally friendly, and alternative wine packaging is much more so than glass. Lighter weight, more recyclable materials, and different volume configurations that maximize packaging materials are some of the ways alternative wine packaging can be more eco-friendly. Innovative wine packaging can also be more cost effective, providing savings to either or both consumers or producers, once production is at optimum efficiency.

That isn’t to say Millennials are abandoning wine in cork-finished glass bottles; market feedback from packaging T&T has produced and marketed clearly show that the younger generations respect and admire the traditions of the traditional wine package, and feel it is a must for high-end super-premium, ultra-premium, and luxury priced wines. Furthermore, natural cork has the edge for sealing wine for cellaring; screw caps may be as effective, but trials in aging great wines closed in screw caps are still few. Natural cork’s ability to keep wine properly sealed for years is pretty remarkable, and still the most viable, proven solution.

In T&T’s crystal ball into wine’s future, the next big brands in wine will be the one that is the most convenient for wine drinkers to enjoy, in the package right for the time and place. Over the last 15+ years T&T has been working with start-ups and established wineries on 3-L bag-in-box, aluminum bottles, plastic bottles, single-serves, and flexible pouches. In working with alternative wine packaging, many challenges remain on both the production and the marketing sides. In production, packaging costs and co-packing remain challenging. In marketing, the established three-tier sales channel often doesn’t understand the new markets alternative wine packaging opens for them, nor are nimble enough in inventory management and sales to accommodate just-in-time sales for the shorter shelf-life alternative wine packaging has. But the explosive growth of alternative wine packaging, and the enthusiastic embrace by new and young wine drinkers is impossible to ignore: wine’s future is beyond the glass bottle.

(Please note: the companies named in this post are not currently clients of Tincknell & Tincknell, and are not responsible or condone the contents. The post is solely the opinion and viewpoint of Tincknell & Tincknell.)

February 1, 2013 | Filed Under Ferment, News, Rackings


Social Media Marketing

Here at Tincknell & Tincknell we watch – and adopt – new tech, often early, especially that tech with potential marketing purposes. So we’ve been watching and participating in social web marketing, both on our own behalf as well as on behalf of some of our clients for quite awhile now. We also read about it, and read what people in the wine industry think about it.

So, having just read another colleague’s post on social web, direct mail, and web marketing, it was a bit surprising to read that marketer praise the printed page (well, that wasn’t surprising – we love print) but completely dis the “vanity” website in lieu of social media.

Huh?

Certainly social media has a place in a business’ marketing strategy. What alarms us is that many, many pundits and consultants in the wine industry are peddling it as the form of marketing, and possibly the only form of online marketing a business needs. So what I write now is definitely against the current trend, that huge social media wave consuming wine marketing right now: we haven’t seen de facto, unmitigated success from social media alone. It has added to success as part of a mix of marketing efforts, but as the sole marketing channel.

What needs to be realized is that social media in the form of Twitter and Facebook is like old-fashioned advertising. Your message is sent out to those that are online, reading at that very moment. If the eyeballs aren’t there and reading at the time you post or tweet, your message is lost into the reader’s timeline stream. Sure, one can scroll down and read old posts and tweets … but how many people log on and back read their Twitter or Facebook stream more than a few hours old at the most?

To be effective as a marketing tool, Twitter and Facebook work by impressions, and the more impressions seen the more effective it is. That is old media advertising. It is new media advertising, too, a la Google Ads, and banner advertising. The number of “ad” impressions on the target audience is paramount to the success of this kind of effort.

Social media preaches mostly to your choir; it is not as effective in reaching new customers. Once a person creates an account on a social website, they often focus on those people or businesses they already know. The  529,639 fans of the Tide Facebook page notwithstanding, most people aren’t willy nilly “liking” any business Facebook page just for the heck of it. (Really? 529,639 actually care enough about laundry soap to post on, and follow Tide’s Facebook page?!? Gah!)

Ultimately, for any marketing effort, the goal is to drive the eyeballs to your winery, a wine shop, into a restaurant … or to your web page – where your message is there, up, online, ready to be read 24/7/365, surrounded by your branding, images, photos, videos,  copy (blog), and shopping cart, with nary another brand in sight. Granted, we at T&T are biased – we do design websites – but I would write this even if I didn’t know HTML from CSS. A “vanity” website (terrible term – we prefer business website) provides a controlled message in a branded environment to a visitor at any time or day. It is unique in marketing, since no other “channel” other than a physical building is promoting your message as consistently and constantly as a business website. A Facebook page is nothing but an advertisement in another website; your brand is subservient to the Facebook brand, plain and simple, like an ad that lives within a magazine. Twitter is more ephemeral – most people don’t even use the Twitter website, so any branding done on your account page is likely never seen by most of your followers; they’re using TweetDeck, Twhirl, Seesmic, Twitterific, Yoono, etc., or an iPhone, Android, or webOS app to read and tweet.

Social media seems great – heck, it’s all free, right? – but it certainly should not be your only way to reach out to customers online. A business website is an invaluable, irreplaceable marketing tool, and it doesn’t need to be an expensive website to be effective. It is one of the few marketing efforts, though, that is there with your message and branding when the customer wants it – no hunting through the 2,091 Twitterers you follow to find that discount code you briefly saw three days ago.

For T&T that means social media is part of an overall strategy to drive people to really engage in you, your winery, and enjoying your wines. Social media should be influencing people to come visit, go to your website, refer their friends and family, or try your latest wine at their local restaurant or from a store.

At T&T we have always maintained that all marketing is on the table for discussion, from direct mail marketing to national advertising to the social media. We do feel strongly that social media must be considered in your marketing strategy. But your marketing strategy must be designed for maximum effect based on your budget and branding. Social media through Twitter and Facebook doesn’t replace traditional online and offline marketing; it should be part of a larger, more comprehensive marketing strategy. And please, do consider direct mail marketing! We love the printed page as much as the web page.

September 7, 2010 | Filed Under Ferment

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