Branding Your Winery Through Packaging & Labeling

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Setting yourself apart from the competition is one of the main challenges that wine makers face when drawing consumers to their brand. What makes a customer pick up a wine and say yes? How do you draw customers to your wine when they’ve never put their lips to it? When they’ve never even heard of you?

Packaging and labeling is the first contact a consumer has with a product. Nowadays, there are more options than ever before, so figuring out how you’d like to be introduced and making it a reality is pivotal in making your brand successful.

Bottles

When consumers look for wine, the first thing they look for is a bottle. Bottles are traditional and provide a perception of class and exclusivity, even if they aren’t expensive. The bottle is ideal for aging, is impermeable to gases, and resists rough handling.

With a 360 degree canvas, options for labeling wine are many, and include paper labels, pressure sensitive labels, and screen printing. Bottles can also be etched, however the process is expensive and usually reserved for 1.5 liter magnums and higher, and the bottles are usually for very small release.

Paper labels and pressure sensitive decals can be printed in any shape and size, with as many designs and colors as there are wine brands. Paper labels are a cost-effective way of labeling as they can be ordered in bulk or printed from a computer at the winery, and then applied by hand or along the bottling line. Designs can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like. There is practically no limits to what can be done on a paper label.

Because paper labels are so common, however, they do not allow a product to stand out as much as alternative labeling methods like screen printing. Screen printing has been around for several years, but has become more common over the last 15 years, according to Mike Bergin, owner of Bergin Glass in Napa, California. While still only a small percentage of the marketplace, the number of wineries using screen print is increasing. This may be because the benefits of screen printing are vast.
“In most cases, if there’s a problem on the bottling line it probably is surrounding the labeler. All you need to do with a screen printed bottle on a fill line is fill, cork and foil. The labels go on straight every time, they’re not crooked, you can’t scuff them. The corners and the edges can’t tear. Say you send a pallet of wine into a distributor and for some reason a fork lift goes through and maybe breaks four or five bottles of wine – think about the collateral damage. If it splatters through the cases and drips wine onto a paper label, [the label is] ruined. [With a screen printed label], distributors are able to take apart the pallet and just wipe off the bottles and they’re good to go, because wine doesn’t damage or stain a screen printed label. Also, at the end of the day, if you go to wine shops or big wine stores and you go to a section and look at three or four hundred bottles of cabernet or pinot noir, they’re almost all going to be paper labels. It’s the old classic ‘how do you differentiate yourself from all the old paper labels that are on the shelf?’ I like to think that a very unique and a very dynamic screen printed package is just gonna jump off the shelf because it’s not another paper label,” said Bergin.
Screen printing is more expensive than paper, but, Bergin is confident your bottom line will not suffer.

“I think screen printing basically radiates elegance, class, simplicity. There’s no question that it is quite a bit more expensive than paper, but if you’re building a brand and you want to go from five to 10 to 20 to 40 thousand cases, how you gonna get there? We have several clients that have increased four fold over the last five or six years and they’ve told us that so much of it is because of the packaging. It attracts people to that bottle, and that’s half the battle,” Bergin said.

Boxed Wine

The longest running alternative to bottles, boxed wine, had a bad reputation for many years. The stigma that once existed is starting to fade away, however, with better tasting wines being offered up in boxes by companies such as Black Box, Bota Box, From the Tank, and Big House.

One of the main draws to boxed wine is that it is cask-like, allowing consumers to enjoy one glass of wine without having to open a bottle and potential ruin the rest. Boxed wine is not actually boxed – the wine is enclosed in a plastic bladder within the box and accessed through a spigot attached to that bladder. Standard boxed wines hold 1.5 liters – the equivalent of four bottles of wine, and because the wine is sealed so well in the plastic bladder and not released until the spigot is opened, the wine remains fresh longer than it would in an opened bottle.

“Bag-in-a-box has come a long way over the years – they don’t impart any off taste flavors from the plastic materials. There’s been millions and millions of dollars in research and development to allow bag-in-a-box to be a very common package,” said David Moynihan, founder and president of AstraPouch in Penfield, New York.

Recently boxed wine companies have introduced tetra packs, smaller packs that range from single servings to 500 mL boxes of wine. Similar to milk cartons, these provide portability due to low weight and smaller size. In these smaller versions, the wine is not sealed in a bladder, so it is recommended that they be used only in situations when the wine will be consumed soon after being opened, for the best possible taste.

Pouches

Wine pouches have become more and more popular over the last few years, for many of the same reasons that boxed wine has thrived. The pouch is a redesign of the inner bladder of boxed wine, shaped to stand up and provide flexibility and portability for consumers who like their wine on-the-go. Ranging in size from 187 mL to three liters, pouches will keep air out, preventing oxidation, and let consumers take their wine anywhere, whether that’s the beach, the stadium, or the kitchen counter. Smaller pouches have been known to provide nostalgia for those who remember juice pouches from grade school bag lunch, driving sales in twenty-and thirtysomething consumers who are more active and less worried about old stigmas than convenience and the environment.

“What we’re seeing are people tend to be more active. They’re on the run, they’re on the go, and it’s just simply not convenient for them to bring a heavy glass bottle. A lot of the state parks…have a lot of these carry in, carry out rules, so whatever you bring into the park, you better bring out [because] there’s some substantial fines. The states don’t have a lot of money to become garbage collectors…As a result of that, people are conscious about packaging and how they can get in with lightweight packaging and packaging that as you consume the product [the packaging] becomes smaller. In the case of a pouch, it also chills quickly, so it’s very convenient,” said Moynihan, creator of the AstroPaq, an industry leader in wine pouches.

Boxes and pouches provide a marketing tool that bottles cannot – six sides – that can provide more exciting branding than a 750 mL bottle.

“Go into a liquor store and look at the wall of bottles, you see all these dark bottles, you see the labels, but if you’re more than 20 feet away, all you really see is a bunch of bottles with a bunch of labels on them, and you can’t really see anything. Then find a section where they’ve got an Astropaq, it’s like a neon sign, you can’t miss it, because the print, the high resolution print that we can create, and the fact that we can print across right out to the edge, allows it to really jump off the shelf,” said Moynihan.

Cans

If you’re really looking to differentiate your brand from the bottles, bags, and boxes cluttering the shelves, cans may be the way to go. Only a handful of wineries are embracing wine-in-a-can, but consumers have jumped on full board.

Just like bagged and boxed wine, cans make wine more accessible to those on the move and looking for complete convenience. Cans allow wine to go where it rarely went before – outdoor events and activities that are not glass-friendly, and even into the hands of beer drinkers who never considered wine an option before. They are 100% recyclable, unlike bottles, boxes, or bags, offering a benefit to environmentalists who also love their wine.

“Cans ‘foster new drinking occasions.’ [A can] allows consumers to conveniently enjoy wine in a variety of new settings, hiking, camping, on the beach – places where glass may not be allowed, or it may be inconvenient to pack a corkscrew or bring glasses. It is easy to grab a pack of wine in cans, that will stay chilled, offer you a perfect portion size, and enjoy at your leisure,” said Ron Skotleski, Director of Marketing for North America at Crown Beverage Packaging.

Cans also offer quicker filling lines, lowered freight costs, better temperature control, lowered light transmission, and 360 degrees of branding and graphics.

Brand packaging and labels can make or break sales. Working with the right marketing team to get the message and the packaging right for you will only do the best for your company. In the end, it’s about how you want to be perceived and how you want your customer to feel.

“We have seen time and time again how a consumer’s perception of an alcoholic beverage – its color, aroma, and taste – is profoundly influenced by the bottle’s shape, package design and even the texture of the label, said David Schuemann, owner and creative director at CF Napa Brand Design in Napa, California. “We have seen consumers detest the taste of a beverage if it comes from a package design they don’t like, and conversely have seen the exact same consumers love the taste of the same beverage when it comes from a package design that they find pleasing. Packaging that appeals to us beckons us to try a product, reinforces our experience while we consume it, and enhances our ability to recall the brand for future repurchase. Thus, strategic packaging design is not just an aesthetic exercise, but a commercial necessity.”