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Sand Castle Winery Moves to Shrink Sleeves to Beat Supply Chain Issues and Expand Distribution


The wine industry is still recovering from the 2020-2021 COVID pandemic. A November Geisenheim University survey for the ProWein Business Report found that two-thirds of global wine industry representatives it surveyed identified supply chain disruption as the biggest threat to their businesses after cost increases. 92% reported that they had experienced availability issues with glass bottles, significantly more than for any other products.

Sand Castle Winery, which lies along the Delaware River in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is one winery that decided to pivot away from its specialty cobalt blue glass bottles to shrink sleeves that simulated the blue on a more readily available clear glass bottle for three compelling reasons:

  1. To control the supply chain.
  2. To ensure uniformity across bottle orders so the visual footprint on the shelf would not change.
  3. To gain significant cost savings.

“Like every business in the country, COVID made us face a decision about how to go forward,” says Managing Partner Chad Sletten. “We used that time to pivot. We have a very unique product, Alpine Spice, which we bottled in a beautiful cobalt blue bottle with a screen-printed label. The product began growing in 2020 from something people knew from wine festivals and local retailers to gaining state-wide and even some national attention, so we decided to expand our distribution. But the supply chains weren’t reliable: even if we were lucky enough to get it, we couldn’t count on a supply down the road.”

Sletten’s contact at Waterloo Container, George Hall, Waterloo’s Territory Sales Manager for the Finger Lakes and Eastern Pennsylvania region, suggested they use shrink sleeves instead and partnered with Syracuse Label to recreate the iconic cobalt blue bottle and original screen-printed art in a shrink sleeve with the same look and feel.

“It’s a very specific and unique bottle and label design,” says Sletten, “and we wanted to keep the integrity of that 25-year-old product and honor it. We used our 25-year mark as the moment to pivot to new packaging. The new process also removed a couple of steps, drastically reducing the cost of goods since it’s quite expensive to procure the cobalt glass bottle and have it screen printed.”

“Chad told me, ‘I need something scalable that isn’t going to change,’” Hall explains. “The shrink sleeve solution did all of the above. We went from a scarce German Riesling-style bottle not made frequently to an always-available flint (clear glass) stock made in Pennsylvania. It ended up being 30% cheaper and still gave it that iconic cobalt blue look with the alpine skier on it. It also allowed them to hit the price point in the retail market they needed for the product to take off.”

The packaging transition and ramp-up were both successful, and Alpine Spice has grown from 90 to 318 stores, with plans to reach all 603 PA Liquor Board (PLCB) stores. Sand Castle Winery also did a retail push with Giant Foods, and the product is in Giant Foods, Weis Supermarkets and Wegmans.

“We have not had any customers notice the difference,” adds Sletten.

Sand Castle Winery’s story illustrates the importance of a label that adds interest, conveys a message and generates sales―something wineries know is hard to do. With consumers more price-conscious than ever, a winery needs to capture the buyer’s attention immediately with the visual aspect of the package if they hope to increase the likelihood of getting the bottle in the cart.

Shrink-sleeve labeling is a rapidly growing solution that even the smallest wineries can use to create unique, easily-customizable labels that draw the eye. Wineries can create colorful full bottle designs that tell their story and instantly change―or recreate―the look of their package and brand.

“The current economic climate has created a renewed need for creative marketing,” says Bobbi Stebbins, Marketing Director at Waterloo Container Company. “A 360-degree label surface offers more marketing real estate. At this year’s trade shows, customers said they wanted their products to look different from the competition. At the same time, they are very cost conscious and want the most value per dollar spent on packaging. Since only so many bottle designs are available, and custom bottle molds can be expensive, choosing to label with shrink sleeves is a great way to create visual interest and add messaging space to any label. Sleeves can even be enhanced with special effects and textures not achievable with paper labels.”

Waterloo Container has provided shrink sleeves to its clients for ten years, and demand has grown significantly in the past three years, following the rise of online purchasing, which intensified the need for packages to stand out. A wine bottle must ‘pop’ on the website to convince customers to buy it and pay for shipping. A bright, colorful look and effective messaging can make the difference between a browsing consumer and a sale. Waterloo responded to the increased demand for this versatile labeling by purchasing and installing a second production line and a state-of-the-art shrink sleeve applicator that operates at high speeds for larger runs. This new line can sleeve up to 100,000 bottles per day with seven application mandrels handling a wide range of different bottle shapes and sizes. For smaller jobs or hand-applied applications, Waterloo maintains its original line.

To learn more about current special offers on shrink sleeve applications, please call 315-539-3922 or email contactus@waterloocontainer.com.

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