How will the rise of e-commerce impact wine packaging?
At the end of 2020 – which now feels like a long time ago – I had the pleasure of sharing a session with Eladio Araiz of La Rioja Alta at a Rioja Marketing Club event called Wine Land 2020. The topic of the discussion was wine packaging.
How consumers enjoy products has long fascinated me as it is as much about technology as it is about consumer adoption. Take hot drinks, for example. Tea is commonly available in individual bags, but we rarely find coffee that way. In fact, we had to wait for George Clooney to popularise pods for us to purchase coffee in single units. Instant coffee, on the other hand, is very popular, but instant tea never caught on.
We often learn that what seems ‘normal’ – like the tea bag – was, in fact, the result of an accident. Tea bags were just how merchants sent their samples. They never expected people to keep the tea inside each bag for consumption!
In wine, we also find examples of different levels of packaging adoption. For example, Bag-In-Box is broadly purchased in Scandinavia, where consumers are motivated by the value delivered by this format. Coincidently, these markets are where price discounts are restricted by monopoly retailers. We have yet to see similar levels of adoption in some other markets, although awareness is rising.
The prevalence of the 75cl glass wine bottle also seems quite arbitrary. Why 75cl? It’s hypothesised that this was just how much a glass maker could blow into a bottle in a single breath. Another hypothesis is that it was the amount of wine a person could drink in one sitting (when alcohol levels in wine were lower than today).
The next frontier for wine packaging, in my view, is how to transport it to consumers with the rise of e-commerce. The trade’s first instinct is to transport glass bottles to consumers, but does it have to be this way in the mid to long term? Glass is quite heavy and not especially durable and, as a result, lots of cardboard is needed to reduce breakage… which means that there is a lot of packaging required, increasing carbon impact and the associated costs of shipping.
In the case of wine tastings during Covid, we have already seen the rise of easy to send and easy to consume formats, such as smaller formats or even PET. Will consumers react to the wastage from online delivery and therefore change their preferences from the standard glass bottle? Samples revolutionised consumption of tea with the accidental discovery of tea bags, so we will see how wine packaging is affected by consumer purchase pattern changes.
At Wine Intelligence, we will continue to monitor consumer adoption of different packaging for wine. In the meantime, take a look at our 2020 wine packaging report series, which includes reports on packaging trends in Australia, Canada, US, UK and Sweden.