Reimagining Wine Packaging: Why the Wine Industry Needs to Think Outside the Box… and Bottle


After a brainstorming session that had us pondering the question: What in their fields might be considered true innovation, simply an evolution, and/or showed a regression in ideas, we came up with four topics that seemed the most important for the BDWA Summit participants. Media, Health, Education and Tourism, and Packaging. These topics were agreed upon as areas upon which the greater wine industry deserved to be more focused as the industry progresses.

To provoke our thinking, we asked participants to imagine we landed on a new planet. We were tasked with rebuilding the local wine industry without worrying about the current rules. What infrastructures might we change or even ignore if we didn’t have historical and bureaucratic baggage to contend with in our restructuring? This thought experiment resulted in questioning the above-mentioned topics through the “What if” lens, with the goal of not coming up with answers to issues or pain points, but rather to simply create questions that we felt needed to be asked. The results we are thus publishing here are with the hope of sparking an industry-wide debate that moves beyond some of the same tropes within which we find ourselves stuck.

Topic: Wine Packaging

When evaluating the wide spectrum of wine packaging, we stepped back to question every aspect that it entailed, from production, to transportation, retail and consumption. These questions drive to the heart of the challenge in wine packaging: How do we best protect and showcase the contents of the container, while simultaneously facilitating the movement of wine from producer, to the consumer’s table? The steps from point of origin, through to the moment of consumption, must be adaptable between a direct point-of-delivery method and a multi-faceted distribution channel, including export, import, wholesale, retail, and direct-to-consumer. Catering to any wine’s delivery point may require a producer to bridge hemispheres, cultures, languages, socio-economic layers, distribution media, and dozens of individual points of movement between the wine’s origin, and moment of consumption. That’s an extraordinary challenge for an otherwise simple beverage.

The questions:

  1. What if there were no glass?
  2. What if standardized “white labeling” was mandated by law, so consumers’ purchasing decisions weren’t based on label designs?
  3. What if wine packaging had to communicate universally without words?

Glass is an inherently heavy, yet at the same time, weak and fragile container with limited protection against environmental impacts. Current glass bottles come in various shapes and sizes depending on wine type and volume format. The lack of uniformity with shape and size presents challenges with regard to both transportation and storage. Given that glass packaging encapsulates all of these inefficiencies — particularly when compared to alternative packaging such as Tetra Paks, Flexitanks, aluminum cans, and even recycled paper — how is it that glass is an ubiquitous package?

Photo by Thomas Thompson on Unsplash

In a vinous Utopia, glass would never be the synonymous association with wine’s packaging. One could extend this idea further in so far as saying that the perfect wine package would present wine for purchase in unit-serves, just as other beverage categories offer. An idyllic wine package would convey the colour of the contents (in harmony with the promotional strategy) so that the customer could evaluate the product just as easily as one could find the package appealing. This perfect package would convey text, logo, and any texture deemed worthy in response to research conducted by marketing research.

Or, what if packaging were designed for the marketing-averse? Wine packaging could take on a similar role to the tobacco industry in certain countries where products are packaged in almost identical fashion across brands and price points. By simply sporting colorless, or generic, white-labelling of the contents inside, and only requiring disclosures like origin, alcohol by volume, consumption warnings and other legislated requirements, the emphasis would then be focused on the consumer needing to evaluate the wine inside the package. What would the wine package then look like? How would the wine sector communicate or differentiate the quality inside the package, or persuade consumers to choose one product over another, without the influence of well-tested labels?

The question remains as to what package could cater to these multifaceted foci. With the spirits sector breaking out of the cylindrical package mould decades ago, and beer moving comfortably between cans, bottles, and draft, what other categories could help to provide guidance to a rudderless wine ship? The future will undoubtedly provide answers to such questions, but with the current proliferation of aluminium canned wines, recycled boxes, and inflatable bladders all experiencing growth in an otherwise declining category, it’s clear that innovation is being adopted as a means to counter packaging stagnation. Let’s see where all this new packaging goes before we consider passing judgement.

Born Digital Wine Awards by Vinventions

This content is a result of the #BDWASummit which took place on May 30th to June 1st, 2019 in Liege, Belgium. The event’s purpose was to unite winners and judges from the annual BDWAs to discuss the future of the wine industry through the lens of “Truthfulness”.

Participants Included: Damien Wilson (Judge), Elizabeth Smith (Judge, Winner Tourism Content 2017), Felicity Carter (Judge), Helena Nicklin(Judge, Winner Best Video 2017), Jonathan Lipsmeyer (Judge, Winner Best Investigative Writing 2017), Paul Mabray (Judge), Al Robertson (2nd Place, Best Visual Storytelling 2018), Alice Feiring (Winner Best Food & Wine Content 2018), Ilkka Siren (Winner Best Tourism Content 2018), Marcelo Copello (Winner Sustainability Award 2018), Meg Maker (Winner Best Editorial 2018), Rebecca Hopkins (Runner-up Vinventions’ Innovation Award), Faye Cardwell (BDWA), Ryan Opaz (Founder, BDWA, DWCC and Catavino), Reka Haros (Project leader on behalf of Vinventions), Mel Cressman (Vinventions), Caroline Thomas and Vanessa Sferrazza(Vinventions)

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