Long before it became the fodder for kitschy signs and celebrity labels, wine was enjoyed by countless individuals around the world. Wine has been around for over 6,000 years — and the glass vessels that have been used to store wine date back to about 1600 BC!
The Romans were some of the first to make glass more accessible. For centuries, wine has come in glass bottles, sealed to preserve the flavor and prevent oxygen from mixing with the wine.
But like so many other things, wine began to change in the 1980s. Boxed wine first began appearing on shelves for a few select brands, but it didn’t truly catch on until around 2005.
Now, not only is boxed wine mainstream, but other kinds of packaging (including eco-friendly options) have emerged and are rapidly gaining popularity. So pop the cork and let’s dive into the world of wine packaging!
How and Why Wine Packaging Has Evolved
As climate change becomes increasingly prominent in the news, many wine drinkers have become more eco-conscious.
People often like the idea of eco-friendly wine packaging, including lighter or smaller options and containers that are easier to recycle. Glass is also prohibited in certain places, like stadiums and at pools, which has traditionally made serving wine in these venues difficult.
With the rise in eCommerce, when wine bottles are ordered online, their glass containers are heavy to ship, which creates a bigger carbon footprint and more cost.
And what about individuals? Sometimes, people want to drink wine, but they may not be prepared to consume or store a full 750 ml bottle. This increased demand for smaller serving sizes has led to the creation of smaller containers, which are proving to be quite popular.
How Wine Packaging Makes an Impact on the Sustainability Frontier
Glass represents up to 60% of the weight of a 12-bottle wine case, which means that wine bottles contribute heavily to the cost of transportation (and its impact on the planet).
Wine has traditionally had an outsized carbon footprint, much of which comes not from growing and harvesting the grapes (although these factors can contribute to the problem), but rather how it’s packaged and transported.
Manufacturing glass and transporting it can be expensive — it also takes a lot of energy. Even recycling glass bottles can require a lot of energy due to having to melt them down and reformed.
Wine Packaging Trends in 2021
With the increased emphasis on sustainability and the supply chain challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, wine packaging has been changing around the world. There are now more options available for wine packaging materials and sizes. Some kinds of wine even offer individual serving sizes or sample tubes (100 ml size)!
Winemakers are also starting to take a hard look at their shipping materials. Virgin cardboard uses more trees, generates more wastewater, and releases larger volumes of greenhouse gasses than recycled cardboard. Vegetable-based inks, which are often less toxic, are likewise gaining popularity for labels and boxes. The same is true for compostable pulp liners for shipping.
Some winemakers are moving away from foil seals. Though they are iconic, they create a huge carbon footprint and add little value (nor will most places recycle them).
Although it was once unthinkable, canned wine has become more popular, especially among millennials.
At one time, cans were not an option because the acidity in wine would react with the aluminum, changing the taste (and eventually dissolving the can!). However, as technology continues to evolve, cans are able to be lined to prevent adverse reactions.
Canned wine is much lighter, more affordable, and more portable than traditional glass wine bottles. Plus, the cans come in smaller serving sizes and are recyclable, providing a host of benefits.
Canned wine often comes in 375 ml and 250 ml sizes. The 250 ml size is often available in four-packs.
Bag-in-box wine has become a popular wine packaging option in recent years. Even well-known brands and premium winemakers are turning to it. With its pour spout, boxed wine stays fresh from the effects of oxygen (which can turn wine into vinegar fairly quickly). Boxed wine can be a cost-effective solution to standard packaging challenges.
Some winemakers are turning to tetra packs (like the ones traditionally used for juice) for packaging. This lightweight, layered packaging protects wine from ultraviolet light and moisture.
Flat wine bottles were originally created to be novelty gifts. They are 40% smaller and 87% lighter than traditional glass wine bottles; they also can be made from pre-existing and recycled PET. Flat wine bottles are very popular in Europe but are working their way into the North American market now, too.
A paper bottle might sound counterintuitive for wine packaging. However, in 2014, the first fully recyclable, molded-pulp bottle began to appear on shelves. Advantages include; a lower carbon footprint, reduced transportation cost due to its lighter weight, and the ability to recycle the finished package.
Unique Bottle Shapes and Sizes
Traditionally, wine bottles have come in different sizes, but they have been more or less similar in shape. However, innovative bottle designs, even-textured bottles, can catch consumers’ attention.
Consumers don’t just have to select a 750 ml wine bottle, either. Half bottles and single servings are becoming more common.
In addition to unique bottle shapes and sizes, winemakers are playing around with textures on labels. Embossments and other three-dimensional texturization can invite customers to reach out and touch a bottle sitting on the shelf.
When customers are confronted with a wall of wine bottles, individual labels can start to blend together. Having something unique can capture the interest of a casual shopper.
It sounds like a sci-fi book, but winemakers can actually use augmented reality to engage customers and boost sales. A popular example of this is 19 Crimes, an Australian wine.
With this technology, customers can download a free app and scan the label. An animated version of one of several 18th-century British criminals who were banished to Australia will then come to life on the screen and tell her or his tale. This innovative feature has become very popular with customers — since the advent of this label, sales have grown by 60 percent, according to Forbes!
As customers become more eco-conscious, winemakers have changed their packaging to accommodate new market demands. The glass bottle might have reigned supreme for centuries, but alternative wine packaging offers lighter weight, a greater ability to recycle containers, and a variety of serving sizes.
Even bottles and labels are part of the updates. With augmented reality, wine bottles can become interactive. Textured bottles and labels can attract visual attention in crowded shelf spaces.
More than ever before, winemakers are also turning to third-party logistics (3PL) companies to help with warehousing, inventory, order processing, fulfillment, and custom packaging for wine. A high-quality 3PL like Print Bind Ship can even help with the package design.
If you want to see how we can help your wine business to step into the modern age, contact us today for a free quote.