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Will UK ‘bottle-ists’ ever accept wine in a can?

Published:  02 January, 2019

Rowena Curlewis, CEO of drinks design specialist Denomination, urges winemakers to stop bottling it and embrace new packaging formats and sizes

The future of wine has never looked so different. Humans have been drinking this ancient tipple out of glass bottles for hundreds of years. But now, with lifestyle changes happening at a faster rate than ever before, this time-honoured tradition no longer suits everyone.

More and more of us are choosing to live alone. Globally, the number of single households grew 15% in the period between 2011 and 2016 [according IORMA]. Look to countries like Sweden and Finland and as many as 59% of homes have just one occupant [Eurostat]. For many of these people, opening a 75cl bottle is far from ideal. They fancy a glass but don’t want to drink for three or four nights in a row in order to avoid tipping away any leftovers. Nor do they want to be tempted to polish off the lot.

Many of us are cutting down on alcohol and upping our booze-free days. In 2016, 16% of wine consumers imbibed every day [Wine Intelligence]. That number dropped to 11% last year. The reason? An increasing awareness of the benefits of moderate consumption.

Other factors may have come into play, too. Craft beer is booming, with beautifully designed single-serve cans the dominant vessel. Could a growing appreciation of this packaging format in beer be impacting on people’s acceptance of it in wine?

In the US, sales of single-serve cans of wine grew 43% from June 2017 to June 2018 [CNBC]. And while it only makes up a tiny portion of the wider industry right now, it’s one of the fastest growing categories. But can Brits let go of their attachment to the traditions surrounding 75cl glass bottles? How can designers open consumers’ eyes, hearts, minds and mouths to the joy of wines delivered in this new way?

Designed to shift thinking

Wine manufacturers have to accept that drinks consumers are changing. And if they don’t provide their customers with the alternatives they’re seeking, they’ll get left behind. It’s as simple as that.

Great design is a potent accelerator when it comes to changing the way people think about a product. So for canned wine to continue to grow, it’s imperative that design delivers premium cues to the consumer, no matter what the price point or brand feel. Even quirky, fun, personality brands like Squealing Pig need to ensure that customers understand that the contents are as good as any glass-bottled alternative.

Maximising the available production techniques, including using the substrate as a replacement for foiling, we can simulate the premium look and feel of traditional labels and communicate quality. On-pack messaging is essential, too, to create a product that makes consumers feel proud of the brand they’ve chosen.

The future is red, white and rosé

We’ve embraced change before and there’s no reason why we won’t do it again. Think of casked wine (bag in a box), a format devised in the 60s. It revolutionised the world of wine – consumers could see the advantages in terms of preservation and convenience, and they made the move willingly. Then came screw caps. Another massive shift that people accepted wholeheartedly when they realised they reduced wine faults and eliminated the potential for cork taint.

And then there’s the issue of sustainability. Aluminium can be recycled infinitely; it’s lighter and requires less energy to transport. With consumers increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment, this is another major selling point.

What’s certain is that wine consumers want new formats that take into consideration their changing lifestyles and portion needs, so surely more winemakers should provide it. Great design has the power to persuade both winemakers and consumers that the future of wine is in the can.