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The packaging of wine and spirits

With the creation of wine and spirits, the vessel to hold, store and drink them out of has been a paramount importance (see The History of Bottles, page 9). Over the centuries, the main challenge in wine and spirits was to keep them from spoiling. However, now packaging is not only about storing and pouring.

The packaging in the wine and spirits  industry is  susceptible to the influence of consumer taste and technological innovation. And, as in any other business, the packaging of wine and spirits is one of the factors that has a direct influence on the purchaser.

For example, one of the world’s greatest concern nowadays is  sustainability. This is now taken into consideration on each step of the packaging production, from energy and water use to reduction of waste and recyclability of  packaging.

Consumer tastes were already taken into consideration in the world of wine,  maybe not from the beginning of wine history by the time marketing science wasn\'t even labeled formally ( http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-marketing-part-one-2011-3?IR=T ) for example when in 1986, the Tsar requested L.Roederer to created special cuvee in an extremely sweet style and a special clear crystal bottle with a flat bottom (though the technological innovation are now presented in the modern packaging of a Cristal bottle, there’s no such thing as Cristal in a can or plastic bottles, but each bottle is now wrapped in golden Cellophane wrapper which is supposed to give some protection to the fragile wine in Cristal colourless bottle. (Christie\'s world encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling wine, page 171).

The packaging is the most important method of product differentiation in the wine and spirit industry. It forms an integral part of any wine and spirit promotion and consumption cycle. (2. Page 128) and includes label design, type of closure and different types of packaging formats.

The wine and spirit market is changing in terms of packaging nowadays. Even though the packaging of wine and spirits still most often involve glass bottling, alternative packaging formats are developing. (1. web). Producers break with tradition and introduce new packaging forms (Barber and Almanza, 2006) like  bottles or lightweight bottles (with corks, glass cork, screw caps or stoppers) bag-in-box,  Tetra Pak, cans and small serving packaging like StackWine (picture in attachment ).

The packaging formats

Wine and spirits were historically stored in wooden casks, clay or ceramic vessels and pottery and stoneware jugs were used for centuries in Europe. Clay jars called Kvevri were used in Georgia for fermentation dating 6 millennium BC (100 bottles, page 13) the clay bottles are  spread as special gift packaging format  in Georgian wine production (picture 2))  (http://www.jancisrobinson.com/ocw/detail/bottles).

In classical antiquity, wine was stored and transported in in different sized amphoraes (picture 3). The  amphoraes wasn\'t easy to use on during daily meals, so the Romans invented the technique of blowing glass bottles, which were better suited for everyday life. In the Cognac industry in the 18th century, the Cognac business got better organised and more and more Cognac trading house were set-up focusing on exporting the product, so starting in the middle of the 19th century they began to carry Cognac in bottles, instead of casks.

 http://www.cognac-knowledge.com/cognac-history/

The Romans invented the technique of blowing glass bottles. Early bottles have round bodies with long conical necks. By the 1720s the bottles became taller and  flatter. Naturally occurring impurities in the constituent ingredients gave glass an olive green hue which varied from pale to almost black and were beneficial to the bottled wine as it eliminated light. These bottles were of substantial in weight and thickness too.

Soda-lime glass stock accounts for the majority (around 90 percent) of glass products that is used in the production of wine bottles, and is typically largely comprised from compounding silica, calcium oxide, lime, aluminium oxide, ferric oxide, barium oxide, sulphur trioxide, and magnesia.

http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/materials-handling/glass-bottles-made

The bottle closure is a small but important part of packaging but important. The  corks are still the principal closures used for wine bottles, although alternative stoppers have become increasingly common since the mid-1980s due to a rise in the incidence of cork taint. Modern technology, offers a range of alternatives to the traditional cork, like synthetic closures, screwcaps (usually more common in first world countries or on young wine which is not intended for ageing). Or the least elegant of them all, the crown cap, which is quite popular on specially made Craft Wine brand, pairing with special bottle it is supposed to convince beer drinker to go for wine(picture in attachment).

Glass bottles differ http://www.jancisrobinson.com/ocw/detail/bottlest only in the choice of label, closure and foil. Wine bottles are now made in an wide range of shapes, weights and design. In addition to traditional bottles, the trend is now increasingly heading towards sustainable, lighter bottles or appealing designer versions. One example of this is Grey Goose: they reduced the weight of their bottle by 13%. This made it easier to handle and transport, plus they developed organic inks for on-bottle decoration to make it more sustainable.

 http://www.pci-mag.com/features/featurecurrent-trends-in-the-speciality-spirits-market-4774952/

Designer wine line BREE, produced in Germany by Peter Mertes was the first wine in food retail to win a Red Dot Design Award in 2009 – the world’s largest and most important design prize. “As a rule, in the wine business, tradition is a top priority. With many wines lined up on the shelf looking fairly similar we decided to design a bottle that would make our wine stand out from the crowd,” explains Michael Willkomm, the partner at Mertes. The sales figures indeed shows that this wine finds its customer and sold around several million bottles per year.

Glass packaging in the beginning of the 21st century consolidates its position as the main format in the global wine and spirit format (approximately 70% of the wine market), and it continues to be the preferred vessel in the second decade of the 21st century. (2, page 128).

Cartoons are the second most important form of packaging in the wine and spirit industry in global volume terms (IBW, page 128).

The aseptic packaging technology has been called the most important food packaging innovation of the 20th century by the Institute of Food Technologists and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences called the Tetra Pak packaging system one of Sweden’s most successful inventions of all timeTetra Pak was created in 1951 as a subsidiary to Åkerlund & Rausing, a food carton company established in Malmö in 1929 by Ruben Rausing and Erik Åkerlund. Reusing Tetra Pak cartons are made up of six layers. These layers help protect what’s packed inside from germs, sunlight, air and adulteration. This means that the beverage packed into Tetra Pak cartons do not require preservatives. These layers are made from the following three materials: (picture)

The main material in all packaging is paperboard. They use just enough to make the package stable, without adding unnecessary weight. Paperboard is a renewable material, made from wood.

1. Paperboard - Paperboard is the main material in our cartons. It provides stability, strength and smoothness to the printing surface.

2. Polyethylene - Polyethylene protects against outside moisture and enables the paperboard to stick to the aluminium foil.

3. Aluminium foil - Aluminium foil protects against oxygen and light to maintain the nutritional value and flavours of packaged food in ambient temperatures.

The market for wine and spirits in carton packages is rapidly growing. Carton packages are known to have many convenience, environmental and cost benefits when it comes to packaging wine. But their multi-layer construction also makes them ideal for maintaining the all-important taste and quality of wine.http://www.tetrapak.com/packaging/materials A good example of using packaging congruent to brand identity is Yellow Blue. This brand comprises a line of wines made from certified organic grapes packed exclusively in Tetra Pak. http://www.villagevoice.com/restaurants/yellow-blue-green-we-sample-the-latest-tetra-pak-wines-6558703


The cartoon packaging in wine and spirit industry was seriously disturbed with  growing success of bag-in-the-box packaging.

The bag-in-box (BIB) is a plastic polyethylene terephthalate or aluminium bladder in a cardboard box with a plastic spout. Its large surface area allows

abundant space for images and information that are potentially

useful and appealing to consumers. The BIB is inexpensive to

produce and its stackability and high product volume to package

weight make it inexpensive to ship – these cost reductions are

passed on to the consumer. The “cheap and

cheerful” image remains, but this appears to be slowly changing as

higher quality wines are now being packaged in this way. Wine

Spectator included numerous BIB wines in their review of best

value wines awarding them scores of up to 88 points.

The large (usually 1.5 to 5 l) cubic format size and ability to remain fresh for

up to 6 weeks after opening, make it appealing to undemanding,

but regular consumers of wine. Although all components can be

either recycled, as soon as packaging is made from materials that

need to be separated, the likelihood of this decreases dramatically.

Multi-layer cartons are made of three or more materials which each

contribute key properties: PET to hold liquids, aluminium for a

barrier against light and oxygen, and paper for stiffness, strength

and shape.  A peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by

Sweden’s monopoly Systembolaget showed multi-layer cartons to

have a dramatically lower carbon footprint than both glass and PET

bottles.

Bag-in-box wines have been around for years, but Black Box shook up the category with a premium quality offering in an upscale design. Now we have Target’s Wine Cube, Fish Eye and Big House in octagonal boxes and even a premium cylinder. The 1.5L boxed wines offer a premium value proposition that fits our modern lifestyle and more relaxed attitude towards wine consumption. The BIB conveys more than just value – fun, convenience, and environmental advantages give consumers plenty of reasons to consider boxed wines.  http://www.sterlingcreativeworks.com/no-corkscrew-required-alternative-packaging-for-wine-and-spirits/

The next interesting material is polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

PET bottles have a similar appearance and feel to glass and invoke trust and feelings of familiarity in consumers. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a non-leaching food standard thermoplastic developed in the 1970s that can be moulded into shapes and containers, including wine bottles. Louis Moodie, Mondi Sales Manager – PET & New Business, has received positive feedback from the wine industry in South Africa, in regards to wine in PET, with some winemakers seeing the product as innovative, while others feel a moral obligation to the environment to reduce CO2 emissions. (Moodie, L. 2010).

They are much more lightweight than glass (88% less for 0.25 l bottles and 50 g vs. 300 g for the best lightweight glass for 0.75 l). The re-sealable screwcap closure is convenient and reduces the risk of TCA taint. The fact that PET bottles are shatterproof offers safety and convenience advantages for consumption in the outdoors, at swimming pools and when travelling. Despite their vast weight advantage and reduction in CO2 in distribution, PET is made from depleting crude oil resources. Recycled PET is rarely food-safe and is thus typically “downcycled” to make textile products. Despite multiple layers with an oxygen-scavenging layer either on the inside or between two PET layers, wines in PET bottles continue to have a limited shelf and storage life compared to wines in glass bottles. This packaging does not enjoy great acceptance among the fine wine connoisseur sector. It has the largest acceptance among aspirational consumers in traditional wine-consuming markets (according to Wine Intelligence 40% of UK wine drinkers would purchase wine in PET), newcomers in emerging international markets, and travelling professionals.

Wine is now also offered in various PET pouches which are virtually bags without boxes. These packs come in various sizes including small, single serve units and are equipped with a re-sealable spout. Their large surface area offers abundant space for appealing imagery and information for consumers. Pouches can also be hung on a rack or display on an integrated cut-out handle opening – if they get bumped and fall, they will not break. This packaging alternative is appealing to consumers for informal and/or outdoor occasions. They have the advantage of flexibility and can be easily tossed into an icebox or picnic basket and can be quickly chilled in cold water.

http://julia7ich.com/wine-packaging-alternatives-to-glass/

In 2011 was the year of the pouch. The Climber by Clif Family offers itself as a convenient, innovative option for the active lifestyle. It’s squishable and durable, but stands up on shelf for a tidy retail display. It seems consumers love the idea of tucking a bag of wine into their bicycle panniers or backpacks. There’s something just a little naughty about a gourmet indulgence after a climb up a mountain, but it’s also virtuous since an 80% reduced carbon footprint vs. glass makes it environmentally friendly.

http://www.sterlingcreativeworks.com/no-corkscrew-required-alternative-packaging-for-wine-and-spirits/

Pull-Open Schnapps
New packaging systems do not stop at spirits either. Probably the most unusual example comes from the USA and goes by the name of Pocket Shot. Whiskey, rum, vodka, gin and tequila are offered here in 50ml pouches that at first sight look like hospital drip bags. The inventor Jarrold Bachmann sees a number of advantages in the robust and flexible packaging.

http://www.prowein.com/cgi-bin/md_prowein/lib/pub/tt.cgi/Feature_Packaging_Innovations.html?oid=19729&lang=2&ticket=g_u_e_s_t

And the last but not least format is a can: manufactured from aluminium, sometimes referred to as drinks or beverage cans.

Even though cans used to be relatively cheap to purchase, the cost of aluminium has rocketed in recent times. A big problem for smaller producers is the cost of filling cans, as special bottling facilities are required.

Aluminium cans are the only alternative to glass in which sparkling

wines can be packaged. Aluminium cans are lightweight, practically

non-breakable, 100% recyclable and at 52%, the most recycled

beverage container. Their low consumer acceptance for wine is due

to their reputation for lending beverages an unpleasant metallic

taste although forms with a flavour protecting lining are available.

Convenient single-serve sizes appear to enjoy the highest

acceptance among consumers. An interesting new development is a

lined aluminium bottle with a screw cap closure. The ability of

aluminium cans or bottles to be chilled quickly is another positive

attribute. An example of the use of aluminium can as an integral

part of a brand is single-serve Sofia sparkling wine from Francis

Ford Copolla that is targeted at female consumers. http://julia7ich.com/wine-packaging-alternatives-to-glass/

Standard bottles are still the most common choice for wine and spirits, but there have been several interesting new options coming out and consumers seem ready for untraditional structures. While bottles fit our standard production line and offer consumers traditional quality cues such as authenticity, there are many advantages and  disadvantages in each category of packages.

The advantages and disadvantages of different packaging formats.

Glass bottles are used for a variety of different beverages, and historically wine in glass bottles have been the most common form of wine packaging for wines across much of the price point spectrum, from entry-level easy drinking wines, to ultra-premium brands.  Yet glass is not only a practical choice for wine, it has become an emotional factor too. There is a sensory experience associated with glass wine bottles, the pop of the cork, clink of the bottles, the  elegance of serving wine etc.

Glass

It is far more difficult to hold a heavy bottle and pour the contents elegantly into a glass compared to a lighter bottle. Heavy glass bottles also increase the final cost per bottle to the consumer; they are more expensive for producers to produce and require corks or screwcaps, foils and labels. This translates into higher mark-ups by producers, retailers and hoteliers. Sneaky marketers could also use heavy bottles to promote a lesser product, enticing consumers to believe they are purchasing a premium wine.

Advantages:

Historical value

- Widely accepted by consumers and retailers

- Perceived as premium wine packaging option

 - Suitable for long-term maturation

- Perceived as the greenest‘ wine packaging

Disadvantages:

Heavy

Cumbersome to distribute

Breakable: stock losses/injuries to bottle handlers

 Subject to harmful UV light penetration (predominately clear and light-coloured glass) - temperature variation can be harmful to contents

If closed with natural cork, possibility of cork taint‘

Through modern technology and numerous trials, glass producers have been able to reduce the overall weight of some wine bottles. These lighter weight wine bottles look identical to their heavier, traditional counterparts. Internationally these are being used in the UK and USA amongst others. In South Africa, Consol glass has a few lightweight bottles on the market to date, with others to follow in the future.

Advantages

Less GHG emissions emitted during production

Lower carbon footprint during transport: for filling and thereafter during distribution (for lightweight bottles)

- Maintains visual and tactile appeal similar to traditional glass bottles

Allows for traditional closures, i.e. natural cork

Easier to pour

Green appeal

Disadvantages

Suitability still needs to be established for bottle fermentation style wines

Breakability: stock losses/ injuries to bottle handlers

 A large portion of GHG emissions are still produced in the recycling process

Weight of re-used and recycled bottles may be similar to that of traditional, heavier bottles

Tetra Pak

Tetra Pak cartons are polycoated containers. They are good competitors to glass packaging. As opposed to transporting empty bottles to be filled, empty Tetra Pak cartons come in a roll, with one lorry of empty Tetra Pak cartons equating to 26 lorries of empty glasses. This means that transportation before filling alone vastly reduces carbon emissions. Added savings for the producer are that there are no corks, foils or additional labels (needed for bottles) required. Cartons are cheaper than glass and can be distributed more efficiently once full, they are easy to stack and more can be transported in one load than glass. Amongst the different Tetra Pak carton options, Tetra RexTM, whilst ideal for non-aseptic products such as milk and prepared foods, is not best suited for wine. Aseptic Tetra Pak cartons refer to contents that are stable at room temperature, as opposed to non-aseptic that need chilled distribution e.g. pasteurised products

Advantages

Minuscule carbon footprint before filling

Carbon footprint during transport less than glass

 Logistically easy to pack

Shatterproof

Could appeal to new target markets

Disadvantages

After initial opening some closures can leak if the box left on its side

 Limited shelf life, not suitable for long term storage

Product cannot be seen

Image of containing entry-level or poor quality wine

Bag-in-Box (BIB)

Comprising a strong bladder pack made from food-grade plastic or metallised film filled with wine, the Bag-in-Box (BIB) style uses a tap encased in a corrugated fiberboard box. (Wapedia, 2009).

There is a significant rise in the popularity of this method, which can be attributed to certain factors like convenience, better quality of wine in the boxes and improved technology allowing wine to remain fresh for around six weeks. Plus its green image, with boxed wine contributing an estimated 85 – 91% reduction of waste to landfills and 55 - 70% less carbon emissions than the production and shipping of traditional glass bottles of equivalent quantity. It is estimated that up to 70% of Australian wine offered in Australia is in a BIB. It is also very popular in Germany and the United States. (Bag-in-a-Box, 2009)

Advantages

Easy to store

- Once opened wine stays fresh for up to six weeks

- No implements required to open box

- Inexpensive to produce

- Less packaging and lower carbon footprint

- Cardboard component can be fully recycled

Disadvantages

Connotations of being an inferior wine

 - Not suited for long-term maturation

PET

A good alternative to glass. Polyethylene Terephthalate  bottles may be constructed in a single, monolayer or be made up of multiple layers. Monolayer PET bottles are suitable for wine production and are produced with an oxygen scavenging additive mixed into the PET before moulding to form an active barrier. This means a large concentration of active ingredients need to be added, to prevent a diluting effect, as it has to cover the entire cross section of the wall of the bottle.

Multi-layer PET bottles are typically constructed using three layers. The bottle wall consists of the inner and outer layer being made from conventional PET that has no oxygen scavenging additives included in it, which is sandwiched inbetween a nylon or EVOH passive barrier. This passive barrier will include an active ingredient for oxygen scavenging purposes. As the active ingredient is spread over a much smaller area (the middle layer), the concentration of the oxygen scavenging additives is much better.

There have been concerns in the past about the breathability of plastic and that oxygen may permeate through to the wine and taint the flavour of the wine. Bottle supplier, VIP Packaging‘s PET Business Manager, Daryl Black explains, “We have been working on our PET wine bottle solution for some time now with the objective of making sure we wouldn‘t compromise the taste of the wine, quality or aesthetics of the packaging”. (Packagingmag.com - Wolf Blass, 2009)

Advantages

Can be recycled

Weight of unfilled bottle very light

Shatterproof

Flexible, can be shaped and colour-coded to replicate traditional glass bottles

Re-sealable

Convenient

Disadvantages

Cannot be closed with a natural cork

Limited shelf life

Not suitable for long-term maturation

Bad image, not all consumers are convinced they are in fact the more environmentally friendly option.

Health scares: contrary to glass bottles, PET bottles do allow diffusion of oxygen. To counter this, PET bottles are filled with barrier technologies and oxygen scavengers. Although these chemicals are not harmful to the consumer, many consumers are convinced otherwise.

Bladder packs

Bladder packs can come in a wide variety of sizes from 1L to 1000L and are bags filled with wine, similar to the foil bags sold in a Bag-in-Box format. They are mainly used by the hospitality industry for bulk orders of cheap wine

Advantages

Cheap to produce

Low carbon footprint

Suitable for use in hospitality industry

Shatterproof

Easy to chill

Disadvantages

  - Not easy to handle and pour (bladder packs and foils)

Not suitable for medium or long-term storage

Aluminium Cans

The wine in a can is a relatively new packaging alternative. Its ability to be   stylised with a matte or glossy varnish makes it highly attractive to the consumer market. To make these products stand out on the shelf, different inks can be used: UV and glow-in-the-dark, thermochronic (changes colour when beverage reaches optimum temperature). Cans can be further differentiated by embossing them with a pattern or have customised painted ends and pull-tabs. They generally come in a single-serving format in 200ml and 250ml formats. (Rexam.com 2009). Cans have the added benefit of a reduced weight of 33g versus 62g in 1996 (PACSA, 2009). While there are a myriad of options to choose from, these cans are not locally manufactured and would have to be imported.

Advantages

Single serving

Can be used for semi-sparkling wines

 No possible cork taint

 Easy to store

 Convenient, compact and lightweight

Shatterproof

Protects wine from UV rays

 100% recyclable packaging

 360° branding

Disadvantages

Product cannot be seen

12 month shelf life

Conclusion

To wrap it up, our packaging options just expanded dramatically. No longer are we limited to breakable, heavy glass bottles with little branding rectangles. Of course, for many brands that is still the best choice. It’s a traditional container for a traditional product, and confers an aura of ritual, mystique and quality.

Similarly, wines in alternative packaging are likely to gain gradual consumer approval and acceptance which in turn shall boost the extent to which it is used. Whether the quality of the actual wine inside the packaging will move beyond entry level will be determined by consumer demand, retailers and ultimately producers.

Drinking habits have inevitably changed with modern lifestyles and wine has become an everyday drink, rather than occasional. Environmental awareness and eco-friendly options have become a priority in consumer purchasing decisions. Alternative wine packaging contributes significantly to these needs and offers viable and convenient choices that appeal to all consumer segments.

Beyond the traditional glass bottle, PET bottles, cartons, bag-in-a-box and pouches all share common benefits:

Convenient

Less chance of spoilage, i.e. cork taint

Greater value: 1l + vs. 750ml wine

Easier and greater recyclability

Lighter, therefore smaller carbon footprint in transport

Shatterproof

Less negative effects of light

Portable

Suited to active alfresco lifestyles: transport to picnics, sporting and recreational events

No special implements are required to open them

Wine packaging will continue to change as the priorities for marketing communication, consumer experience, packaging quality and environmental performance evolve. Glass bottles continue to be the only suitable packaging format for long-term maturation after consumer purchase. How environmentally friendly wine packaging is will depend upon its impact on the environment during production, distribution and disposal or ability to recycle between the places where the product is packaged and where it is consumed. Alternative packaging has shown much better performance on LCA studies, yet the majority of consumers still perceive glass as the most environmentally friendly wine packaging. This image is due to the natural materials from which glass is made and the fact that consumers have become accustomed to recycling glass. Lightweight glass bottles and bottling at destinations are efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of glass bottles. The global wine market is now more open to the adoption of packaging innovation and change than in any time in the past. Matching the package to consumer expectations and wine style and communicating the advantages of this package for consumers will be a continuing goal for all wine producers in the future.

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