A short study conducted by GfK among wine consumers of 9 European countries (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Russia, Poland) brought good news to wine brands: European consumers are loyal to their favourite brands. I haven’t data about the consumer loyalty in the US, the third-largest wine market in the world, where consumption rose 16% between 2003 and 2008, and is expected to increase another 7% by 2013, according to Euromonitor. Like Australia, the US wine consumer might be more open to packaging innovations, although the Owens-Illinois study suggests otherwise.
The stuffy wine industry which is still overwhelmingly marketing its products in the old industry-standard glass bottles with the same old, uninspiring labels, sees some progressive wineries executing a packaging design revolution in their attempt to attract new consumers. Success in the wine market comes from being chic, relevant, drink accessible, and importantly single serve. A lot of new wine brands created innovative packages that let to the introduction of the MonOxbar-PET bottles of Constar (see picture), the bag-in-boxes in various, even exclusive designs, TetraPaks in all its variations, South African’s Astra Winebag and even stand-up pouches, but aluminium containers always have been left alone.
Although in the US aluminium bottles in several market segments of beverages are not uncommon, the wine industry have never looked at aluminium, probably due to the generally accepted assumption that wine and aluminium (even with a inside liner) are not merging well together.
The US beer brewers have proven that aluminium bottles are a perfect marketing tool. Graphic designs with brushed metal effects or pure white and gold create a distinctive visual identity and immediately position the products in the premium segments. Limited editions, special events collectors as well as mass market productions are possible. Presented individually or in prestigious presentation packs the bottles offer fatal attraction. The aluminium bottle chills rapidly and offers a cool and refreshing touch. It is ideal for both on and off premises drinking occasions, in bars and pubs or in outdoor and travel areas. Ultra-light and shatterproof, the aluminium bottle offers total mobility and is one of the few materials to be able to be recycled over and over again in a closed loop process where aluminium cans are turned back into aluminium cans using only 5% of the original energy. The reduced carbon footprint emanating from the adoption of the aluminium packaging format is a major attraction for many consumers and the industry as a whole.
But there still stands the technical problem: aluminium and wine don’t digest each other.
We all know how much Australians love the outdoors. So, as a consequence Australian Barokes Wines, a South Melbourne-based firm, led the way to replace glass bottles as challenging environmental and recycling issues continue to emerge. A leader since 1996 in innovative wine packaging, Barokes developed an environmentally friendly wine packaging, the ‘Wine-in-a-Can’, which they called Vinsafe.
Barokes is unique in that they have perfected the technology to produce premium wine in an individually sized, sealed 250 ml aluminium can. Using their proprietary innovative Vinsafe wine packaging system Barokes has produced a range of wines renowned for premium quality, stability and longevity (up to 5 years to date).
The Australian Barokes wines come in various styles (varietals and blends) and even in a 4-can pack.
Last year, with the success of winning a Silver Medal for their Sparkling Chardonnay and Merit Award for their Chardonnay at the Wine for Asia Singapore Expo the product is firmly making a significant impact in the wine markets of Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and of course Australia where it originated. Even in Japan with its very stringent packaging requirements, it has been granted a Japanese patent for its innovative product.
The first question which arises is of course: Doesn’t the wine have a ‘tinny’ or ‘aluminium’ taste’?
According to the company, the patented Vinsafe technology includes the specifications for: wine construction (minimal preservatives and/or additives); specialised filling requirements (wine stabilisation and exclusion of oxygen); and, the unique can lining to ensure there is no contact between the wine and the can. Barokes proves this with regular independent scientific analysis to assure quality and non-interaction with the can lining.
Being a small company it is obvious that Barokes had to defend its patent against the big players in the aluminium can market. After a three-year dispute in Australia, where Barokes successfully defended Vinsafe’s patent against a challenge from global packaging firm Amcor Packaging, they were back in Court on 17 February 2009, this time at the European Patent Office (EPO) in The Hague/The Netherlands against some of the world’s largest packaging companies, including Rexam Beverage Can Company, Crown Packaging UK and Ball Packaging Europe. Barokes was successful as the patent hearing panel unanimously confirmed the validity of Barokes’ patent for Vinsafe in Europe.
Ok, Barokes won the patent struggle in Europe, but they still have to conquer the European wine market, which as I said earlier is loyal to its existing brands and with that to its traditional glass bottle packaging. Or, as some blogger, defined it:
“My French opinion is that wine is a noble nectar you MUST NOT treat as ordinary soda! To me, wine is not just a drink; wine is a philosophy, the Epicurean's religion. My French culture and education forces me to consider that drinking wine in a can is an aberration!!”
At the final end, Europe is, and always will be, the ‘old world’. And I might add particularly with wine. Australia doesn’t have the traditions in wine as Europe has. Or is even that changing .......?
Boxal’s Aluminium Wine Bottles
In contrast to the ‘soda-like’ aluminium cans, Boxal introduced the aluminium wine bottle with the goal to add value to the drinking experience. And don’t be shocked when you discover that Boxal is a French company with headquarters in Beaurepaire, manufacturing aluminium containers.
French being French they offer an elegant alternative to the ‘soda-like’ Australian wine-in-a-can. How they solved the ‘negative interaction’ between aluminium and wine, without infringing the Australian patent, is not known. They might as well, due to the recent decision of the Euro Patent Office, use a license from Barokes.
What ever the case Boxal enriched the wine market with some interesting aluminium wine bottles. In strategy, as well as in its products, it is a little more subtle and elegant than its Australian counterparts. Ok Prosecco and Britz by Santero in Italy, Glitter & Gold by In-spirit in Germany are perfect examples. The same is true of the young Bordeaux-based Lubie.
Instead of aiming at the general wine market, Lubie focuses at young and upper-scale consumers, mostly the young crowds in night clubs and outdoor activities. Their very first target is feminine, since they describe the wine as “feminine, natural, contemporary and self-indulgent”. Women are more sensitive to an elegant and unusual packaging as it is much more fun to show up at a party with your pack of four small bottles of wine instead of a regular wine bottle.
Lubie’s 25 cl Red, Rosé and White Sauvignon offer a comprehensive, exclusive and innovative range using soft colours and light brushed metal effects. Presented individually or in prestigious presentation packs the trio offers tremendous attraction.
Aluminium wine bottles might, after all, conquer the European market.