Wine Industry Network continues to keep the industry informed despite continuing challenges with in-person seminars and trade shows. Its newest conference, packXplore, broadcasted August 25, 2021, focused on the shift away from traditional 750 mL glass bottles and toward more portable, sustainable, and individualized options.
The day’s first session, Alternative Packaging by the Numbers, panelists Christian Miller and Mike Provance used hard data to break down consumer packaging preferences.
Both speakers were quick to clarify that alternate packaging is still a very small piece of the overall wine market, but the consumer behavior surrounding it is still worth exploring.
Miller is proprietor of Full Glass Research and research director for Wine Market Council. Using proprietary WMC studies, along with evidence from Nielsen and other reputable sources, he detailed how wine drinkers in a variety of age and ethnic categories view both wine in stores (when making a purchase) and in social situations. Not surprisingly, older drinkers, including GenX and baby boomers, are much less likely to choose alternatively packaged wine. The finding is in line with marketing messages that target younger drinkers, highlighting the convenience and variety of style and flavor choices alternative packages offer.
Likewise, those who drank wine only occasionally were less likely to stray from the standard 750. “High frequency drinkers, meaning those who drink wine at least once per week, appear more willing to try wines in new packaging, perhaps because they’re comfortable with their knowledge of products and recognize familiar names and brands in unfamiliar presentations,” Miller said.
From his vantage point of CEO at 3×3 Insights, which provides research and marketing based on sales at independent liquor stores, Provance spoke to consumer behavior in a very specialized setting: “The sheer number of alcohol SKUs available at these stores—as opposed to a grocery or big box store—in large part determines consumer behavior,” he stated. “And honestly, the vast majority of what’s offered is still in traditional packaging.”
Referring to most alternative packaging (boxes, cans, tetrapaks, aluminum bottles) as “innovation experiments,” Provance nonetheless sees them as an important part of the alcohol beverage universe. “[They’re] driving interest in new beverage categories and can bring in curious consumers,” he explained.
He continued, “innovative packaging can be a differentiator in crowded categories and is important to consider when building a full brand portfolio.”
Miller agreed, describing alternative packaging as a “marketing occasion for events [where wine in bottles previously wasn’t practical] and in-store displays.”
Both speakers addressed the radical change in purchasing behavior initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. As alcohol delivery and home consumption increased, and social occasions moved outdoors, consumers became more accepting of non-traditional choices.
Neither could predict, however, whether this was a passing phase or a permanent shift.
Ultimately, concluded Provance, “[Sales success] is less about the packaging format and more about the product and the stories surrounding it.”
Re-watch the videos here: https://wineindustryadvisor.com/packxplore-virtual-packaging-conference.
Alexandra Russell is a writer and editor living in Sonoma County, Calif. Formerly editor-in-chief for Spirited magazine and NorthBay biz, she is currently a freelance jill-of-all-trades, covering topics as diverse as employee benefits insurance, health and wellness, and the alcohol beverage industry. Contact her at [email protected]