The Role of Texture in Wine Packaging
By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
The lab supervisor of a well-known Sonoma County winery approached me recently with a lovely bottle of Cote des Roses by producer Gerard Bertrand. The light, salmon-colored beverage encased in glass was beautiful to behold, but what intrigued us both was the fact that instead of a simple punt on the bottom of the bottle, the glass had been molded into the shape of a rose in full bloom. You could actually run your fingers over the indentations of the petals and delight in the color the wine imparted to the glass rose image.
“I don’t even like Rosé wine,” the lab supervisor confessed. “I just want the bottle.”
Her comment turns out to be a fascinating statement about the powerful appeal of texture in packaging, particularly in wine but applicable to other beverages as well.
According to Dennis Sones, the VP of Marketing at Quest LLC, a company that has been in the beverage container decorating business for more than 20 years, bottle appeal has everything to do with successful sales.
“It’s capturing that moment of truth for a customer,” Sones explains. “What are they going to do if you can get them to pick up that bottle? Our marketers tell us when that happens, there’s an 80 percent chance it will be sold.”
Other research seems to bear this out.
In an article titled “Everyone is Just Picking Their Wine Based on the Label,” Hillary Pollack cites a study done by Wine.net that surveyed 2,000 wine drinkers about their buying and consumption habits (Pollack, 2016). The survey found that eighty two percent of the respondents said they selected their wines based on the appearance of the labels.
However, Sones warns that in today’s market, not just any old flat, one-dimensional label will do.
“The boundaries of the old-fashioned paper label have been exhausted, “Sones attests. “The consumer says ‘I’ve seen that already, it’s all been done.’ It creates a real challenge for brand marketers to see what you can do.”
Quest LLC, along with other marketers, have been exploring the world of texture to enhance and differentiate their customer’s brands in that crowded marketplace.
The company recently unveiled what it is calling “The Unstandard Collection;” twelve brands that, as Sones says, “take standard molds and transform them into anything but.”
One of the products is a Japanese sake that employs a shimmering image of Nori, the toasted seaweed wrapper traditionally used in sushi making, around the circumference of the bottle.
Another utilizes the rich tones of real wood with the brand statement burned onto the label to create a unique image. Still another applies a cloth fabric to the bottle and weaves the brand name among the threads.
“Every one of these samples has some (pattern) that makes you want to engage with the bottle,” Sones reports. “It can be shape, texture, the coding of a certain picture … actually, the sky’s the limit.”
Ed Rice, Director of Strategy with Affinity Creative, one of the premiere wine bottle labeling design firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, agrees that texture is playing an increasingly important role in what he calls “the stopping power” of a brand.
“Once you stop that consumer and invite them in, that tactile experience in the hand is an embellishment that heightens an emotive connection,” Rice affirms.
Rice contends that the wine industry is finally catching up with other business categories like cosmetics, which have typically used bottle molds, closures and raised embellishments to differentiate their products.
“Something that says, ‘I’m different. I deserve you and you deserve me,’” Rice describes.
He points out that differentiation in this manner often involves a sense of touch and credits the marketing of Grey Goose Vodka’s iconic frosted glass bottle with being able to convey the impression of a cold, frosty beverage.
“You’re lucky if you can find a way to indicate taste prior to purchase,” he notes. “If a consumer can’t taste it before they buy it, how do you engage their other senses?”
One of the methods Affinity Creative has successfully used to incorporate texture into the branding mix is through the application of unique bottle finishes and tactile label materials. For example, the company developed an embossed, pewter medallion-like label for their client King Estates which, as Rice says, “screams high value” in terms of packaging.
Another is for their client Flora Springs who produces a high-end Sauvignon Blanc called Soliloquy, which now appears in a tall, elegant bottle designed to include a finely cut, multi-faceted punt to convey distinction and quality.
“You see more texture application with limited edition, really high-end brands,” Rice observes. “But, as the overall wine market gets more and more competitive, you’ll probably see greater use of texture as a differentiation tactic across all genres.”
Bill Knopka is the VP of Sales and Marketing with North America Wine and Spirits, Multi Color Corporation (MCC) a global label solutions business.
Knopka tends to agree with Rice’s assessment of the current market.
“The more premiumization, the more effort put into design and packaging,” Knopka notes. “Our customers are always looking for a way to differentiate their packaging to stand out on a shelf or enhance a brand.”
To achieve that end, MCC has also been utilizing unique textured materials for some of their higher end customers. For example, Raymond Vineyards employed the company to create a red velvet label for the 40th anniversary edition of their 2014 Reserve Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a soft, rich and deep image that is enticing to touch and ties into the iconic red room at Raymond Vineyard’s home winery in St. Helena, CA.
“It’s so competitive, our customers want that value-added investment in packaging to get that tactile engagement,” acknowledges Chris Schumacher, MCC’s Technical Manager. “We can offer it through papers with pre-textured patterns or with techniques to make standard paper look premium.”
Schumacher says MCC employs a variety of innovative techniques to accomplish this, such as embossing, debossing, applying high-build screen inks or overprinting on foil. He maintains that using resin labels, wax seals, leather, wood veneer and other unique substrates also “adds authenticity and tactile engagement.”
“With today’s technology, everything is a flat screen experience,” Schumacher declares. “By the use of tactile packaging enticements, it’s reimagining what we do naturally. We’re seeing more and more of that in wine and spirits packaging.”
For his part, Knopka acknowledges that good design is a critical component to customer satisfaction and overall brand success. But, he says, it’s only part of the story.
“Packaging is a key part of enticement, but ultimately, it’s the product in the bottle that counts,” Knopka opines. “Our customers do a great job of combining the two.
“When consumers buy that first bottle, we’ve done our part. When they buy the second bottle, our customers have done theirs.”