New Wines, New Bottles

Posted by 17 February, 2008
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Also picking up on the packaging trend – and in the face of slumping sales – wine makers have gone beyond pretty labels to consider selling the fruits of their labor in bottles of different shapes and sizes. As one packaging expert noted, “Wine makers are finding out that packaging can be a real important part of a product’s appeal. Not just a prettier label but a functionally different package.” To illustrate some of the changes, note the following observation by one marketing commentator:”If you’re taking a lunch break on the ski slopes, you can open up a 187 milliliter screw-cap bottle, the size that used to be found only on planes but now can be bought in supermarkets and at mountaintop ski cafes. If you’re expecting lots of relatives for the holidays, you can try a five-liter bag-in-a-box. If you’re having an intimate dinner with a temperate date, uncork a 500 milliliter bottle, which holds four glasses instead of the six in the standard 750 milliliter bottle.”

Although still relatively small in absolute terms, these new packages have seen the fastest relative growth in sales in the category. New packages are even being used for varietal wines (i.e., wines identified with a particular grape such as with chardonnays), as well as with the blended jug or generic wines. Wine makers are hoping that at least some consumers will trade image and status for convenience (with smaller bottles) and value (with bigger bottles).

Some wineries are also changing the look of their packaging. In recent years, wineries have altered the appearance of the bottle’s neck bands, added a flange to the bottle lip, and replaced wooden corks with colored plastic ones. One popular alteration is to change the hue of the bottle to deep blue. Schmitt Schone, a German wine producer that typically sold 6,000 cases annually, switched its Riesling bottle from green to blue, and within six months sold 60,000 cases. Others popular cosmetic changes to wine bottles include using frosted glass and clear labels. When Sutter Home Winery, the fourth-largest wine seller in the U.S., began using a clear label, sales increased 25 percent the following year. One expert attributes the packaging changes to the desire for wineries to stand out from the crowd, saying, “It’s a fragmented, competitive business. If a winery can gain an advantage by staying vibrant [in its packaging] they’re going to do it.”

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[1] Lourdes Lee Valeriano, “Wine is Bottled in More Shapes and Sizes,” Wall Street Journal, December 9, 1993, p. B-1. Elizabeth Jensen. “Blue Bottles, Gimmicky Labels Sell Wine.” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 1997; Terri Allan. “Wine Packaging Comes of Age.” Brand Packaging, September/October 2000.

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