Bottle Shock: Winemakers Turning To Alternatives To Glass Packaging

It is no surprise that glass bottles are still the overall preferred wine container for quality products. Glass accounts for around 85 percent of global wine packaging, offers excellent protection against oxygen and is considered by many consumers as essential to the wine experience.

Glass does have some drawbacks, however. It is heavy and costly to ship. It is fragile and easily broken. Cork-sealed bottles require a tool to open. Since studies have shown that most wines are purchased and consumed within a few hours, glass is not all that necessary for long-term wine protection.

A great deal of wine is consumed in formal settings, although the leisure lifestyle certainly is trying to seize the wine experience as part of its own. In a recent customer survey, the wants of various age groups were diverse, but the largest common desire was found to be convenience. Numerous producers are filling this need from kegs and large volume bag-in-box packaging to unique, single-serve containers.

With more people wanting to include wine as part of their hiking, camping, tailgating and beach experience, and to bring wine to concerts, parks, picnics, and even to the bathtub, the ease of service, safety and light weight of non-glass containers have alternative packaging increasingly popular.

Here are some of the more popular alternative packages:

  • Bag-in-box: A cardboard box holding a laminated plastic liner offers the advantages of keeping a large volume of wine in a lighter, durable container. The tap is made to virtually eliminate oxygen intake to protect the wine in the box during dispensing.
  • Aseptic cartons: Aluminum-film, plastic-coated and sealed paperboard containers have been shown to effectively protect wine. They are fitted with a re-sealable plastic screw cap and are available in various shapes and sizes.
  • Cups: There are many examples of single-serve plastic PET containers with integrated wine glasses available, containing different wine-style choices. There are also cups with snap off lids, offering a plastic glass full of wine ready to enjoy. Progress is being made to change packaging perception from that of a low-end product to one that is more premium in quality.
  • Plastic bottles: There are current offerings of 187-milliliter four-packs of wine in plastic bottles, which are durable and easy to use. Originally developed for single service in venues such as ball parks and stadiums, this packaging is growing in popularity.
  • Kegs: The restaurant industry has come full circle since the early 1980s when generic wines were served on tap. There are 20-liter returnable stainless-steel kegs and various disposable kegs, with and without bladders. Nitrogen is used to push wine with kegs without bladders as carbon dioxide contact would give the wine a sparkle. Some fine-quality wines are now available in kegs.
  • Cans: Wine in cans have been on the market since around 2000 for sparkling styles but are just now coming on strong for all wine types. The cans are lined with an epoxy resin that acts as a protective barrier between the wine and the aluminum, so there is no impact on the product’s taste. With the same shelf life as bottles and bag-in-box packaging, and costing 40 percent less to package than glass, cans may well be the next hot trend in alternative wine packaging.

Rising consumer enthusiasm for alternative wine packaging and the growing amount of separate space given in wine shops and grocery stores to alternative packages indicate this is a phenomenon that is here to stay. Look for more innovations on your local wine shelves soon.

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