WINE PACKAGING: More Than Just a Pretty Face

wine bottles grabbed by a machine

By: Cheryl Gray

Wineries depend upon the knowledge of packaging companies, not only to boost their products’ aesthetic quality but also to maximize time and minimize product loss when it comes to filling, sealing, shipping and other aspects of the packaging process.

  Among the experts is A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation, based in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Bryan Sinicrope is the vice president of marketing and integrator sales. As an engineer with 46 years of industry experience, Sinicrope describes what is essential in helping wineries to get started, maintain and eventually expand with A-B-C products and services.

  “As far as essentials, I would say having clear goals on what the winery wants to accomplish is highly important. Many wineries are looking for automation to protect their employees from potential injury in handling heavy cases of glass bottles, whether filled or unfilled. Others need increased production speeds, and still, others want automated flexibility to run multiple product lines or bottle styles. So, it’s important to identify which areas will benefit most from automation. This is even more important if the winery has a conservative budget or will need to automate incrementally over time. 

  When working with wineries, our first priority is reviewing their needs and (if not already determined) helping them set their goals. Wineries have traditionally been labor-intensive operations, particularly for smaller producers. They may feel it is difficult to budget for automated equipment. However, once the labor, insurance and liability costs are calculated, even for low-volume wineries, automation can make good financial sense.”

  Sinicrope describes the company’s vast wine packaging expertise, which he says has earned the respect of wineries that range from smaller operations to some of the most prominent names in the wine industry.

  “As a supplier of secondary packaging machinery for the dry end of wineries since the early 1960s, A-B-C has extensive experience in the intricacies of wine packaging. Notably, the visual appeal of the product is paramount. Packaging machines must handle the glass gently to prevent defects that could lead to breakage and spillage on the line, in distribution or at the end user. Also, the packaging machinery must maintain optimal finished package integrity so the product looks great at the retailer with no scuffed or damaged labels or closures.

  Our equipment is designed with features to protect the package throughout the packaging process and beyond so the wines reach the consumer in perfect condition. Some specific examples are our decasers and depalletizers that unload and single file bottles under complete control and with minimum contact to eliminate potential damage that can cause failure on the bottling line or in distribution.

  Our case erectors have exclusive features to ensure square cases that perform bottle inserting at the packer. And all our packers are no-drop, with bottle handling devices that ensure soft loading while protecting the labels and closures, including foil closures used for sparkling wines.”

  Sinicrope gives an overview of A-B-C’s equipment offerings and what makes the company stand out from its competitors.

  “Our experience in wine packaging sets us apart, as we have provided packaging for many styles of wine packaging, from standard glass to reverse taper bottles, bottles of all sizes, cartoned wine and more. We manufacture a wide range of solutions, from empty bottle decasers and depalletizers to case erectors, partition inserters, packers, sealers and palletizers for many sizes, speeds and applications. So, when a winery comes to us, we can offer a customized solution from our standard line of equipment. This keeps costs down and minimizes delivery time. 

  Our equipment is built for reliable performance and low maintenance, which reduces the cost of ownership. All our machines, from semi-auto to high-speed systems, are built with heavy-gauge steel frames and all components, whether made in-house or sourced from our suppliers, are made for long-term operation. They are designed and manufactured in the U.S. and offer smart technology for connectivity to winery automation and remote connectivity for service calls. Our service technicians are PMMI-certified trainers.   

  Finally, our machines are built for flexibility and quick changeover. For example, our depalletizers can run glass, plastic, composite containers or cans interchangeably, with no changeover or change of parts. Our palletizers offer simple touchscreen control for product changes and new pallet configurations. Our standard case erectors and sealers run a range of cases with a two-minute changeover, with optional auto-changeover for wineries running many case sizes.”

  Sinicrope highlights some of the most popular products offered by A-B-C.

  “A-B-C decasers are a staple in many wineries for unloading and single filing bottles from necks-down reshipper cases. These machines are valued for their gentle handling during unloading and features that minimize bottle-to-bottle contact during single filing. Larger wineries that purchase bottles in bulk utilize A-B-C depalletizers for unloading the bottles and feeding the line. For reverse taper bottles, A-B-C has a proprietary handling solution that keeps these inherently unstable bottles upright from pallet to the production line. An advantage of our depalletizers is their flexibility to run a range of bottle styles with no change parts or downtime for the changeover, allowing a winery to feed multiple production lines from one depalletizer.

  Palletizers are also popular with wineries, and we offer a selection of standard models for many requirements. All are low-level designs, enabling floor-level installation and maintenance, which minimizes costs. They offer full flexibility to build new pallet configurations on the production floor at the operator station. All functions can be controlled and set at the panel, which also shows maintenance alerts and fault detection, ensuring top productivity.

  We also supply case erectors, partition inserters and packers for bulk packaging lines.”

  Where space and budgets run tight, Sinicrope says the company has a new product called the 72AN Palletizer designed to address both needs.

  “For wineries with either limited floor space or a small budget, this fully automatic, compact palletizer offers a simple and economical solution to increase production and eliminate the issues related to manual operation. It occupies from 10 to 30 percent less floor space than conventional low level palletizers and offers complete flexibility for product feed and pallet configuration.”

  Prospero Equipment Corporation is a family-owned and operated business that began in 1972 when founder Tony Prospero started selling wine-making equipment from Italy to winemakers who had immigrated from Europe to America. The company has since expanded its product lines and services to address the needs of commercial wineries with offices across North America, including packaging solutions for wineries of virtually any size.

  Andy Robinson represents the company’s sales division from its West Coast offices in Windsor, California. With nearly 35 years in the wine industry, Robinson lends his expertise to winery clients looking to Prospero for packaging essentials.

  “Prospero offers sales consulting, engineered drawings, parts departments and a technical team for service, installation and training. Having effective product and packaging consultation allows direct discussions for future growth and wiser investment strategies. Providing engineered drawings allows for a seamless installation, parts to be on hand if needed and a direct format for our technical team to follow.”

  Robinson explains how Prospero helps its customers build toward the future.

  “A company should plan for future development of products and production volumes. This also includes added closures and perhaps canning. Investing in high quality equipment helps guarantee longevity, ease in maintenance and the finest quality finished product. Prospero technicians fully train all new equipment owners after installation to guarantee all operators are knowledgeable about the machinery and the supporting equipment. This support is backed up by our service and parts department for maintenance and repairs.”

  In addition to its existing lineup, Robinson says that Prospero has added some new products to its roster designed to assist with packaging for wineries and other beverage industry sectors.

  “Prospero represents GAI Machinery in the USA. GAI sets the upper standard of machine manufacturing and offers the highest quality packaging equipment available. Prospero now offers a revolutionary new technology with the UNICA filling valve, an Electro-Pneumatic filling valve capable of filling from 0-6 BAR pressure. This has allowed many companies to expand their product lines and be able to package all of them within the same Monoblock. The UNICA filling valve is now also available with a Volumetric Electro Pneumatic filling valve, offering the most precise filling for a wider range of container sizes and formats. 

  Offering still and counter pressure filling in the same filling valve has brought new technologies to the forefront of packaging for the beverage industry. The UNICA filling valve is also offered on the GAI canning Monoblocks. The GAI Monoblock design is engineered so all main gears are interlocking and connect all turrets, thus eliminating any risk in loss of machine timing.”

  Among the companies in the packaging industry delivering products with the environment in mind is Encore Glass, headquartered in Fairfield, California, right outside the Napa and Sonoma wine regions. As its name implies, Encore Glass recycles bottles for wineries, a practice it began some 40 years ago. The company has since expanded its services to include custom-printed boxes, decorated bottles and even custom molds, allowing clients to create bottles exclusive to their brand. Consulting services include assisting clients with choosing bottle styles, how many bottles to order, setting timelines, and even how best to use existing stock such as labels, corks and even bottles. 

  Encore Glass touts an extensive quality assurance program. Its field support prioritizes testing labels, closures and capsules before placing any bottle order. It offers clients in-house 3D print prototypes designed to shorten development time for custom molds. Wineries that offer wine clubs can ship their products in specially designed shippers that are lightweight, meet commercial shipping standards and are biodegradable.

  Packaging experts help wineries avoid missteps by not wasting product, time and money. Choosing the right packaging company, experts say, depends largely upon a winery’s immediate needs, budget and long-term goals. 

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