retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The San Francisco Business Times reports on the moves by various California wineries to package their wines in new ways. On the list, according to the paper, are aluminum cans, screwtop bottles and Tetra Pak cartons. It is all about appealing to “a younger, hipper crowd with fewer preconceptions about traditional wine presentation.”

In addition to seeing an opportunity among these younger consumers, the paper writes, “portability, ease of use, quality issues relating to cork-based contamination, and efforts by Northern California wineries to move excess inventories all help explain the sudden burst of interest in new packaging methods.”

Kendall-Jackson says that it is getting a “great response” with its Pepi wines, which comes in a screw-top bottle. As reported here on MNB a few weeks ago, the Niebaum-Coppola folks has gotten a tremendous response with its 2003 Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine in a petite, 187ml pink aluminum can. And there are plenty of other examples, as well.

"(The response) has been so overwhelming that we've gone back to the well," said Erle Martin, Niebaum-Coppola's president. At the moment, it's Niebaum-Coppola's only wine in a can, but "at the moment would be the correct phraseology," he said.
KC's View:
We have to admit that we have a mixed reaction to this trend.

First, we see yet another reminder that, since we prefer wine that comes from old-fashioned bottles with old-fashioned corks, we are neither young nor hip. And we wonder if part of the problem is that this new generation with so few preconceptions simply hasn’t been raised correctly.

But obviously, that’s nonsense. Sofia sparkling wine is wonderful, even in the can. Ultimately, if new packaging can help the new generation discover wine, that’s probably a good thing. And we bow to the ultimate wisdom of Francis Ford Coppola in almost everything (though why he directed “Jack” is still a mystery to us). If he isn’t tied to bottles and corks, why should we be?

(Quick note. When we mentioned the Sofia in a can a few weeks ago, noting that we have a bunch in our fridge, a few people asked where they could get it. Our understanding is that it has limited distribution at this point, but you can always try ordering it from http://www.niebaum-coppola.com/ .)

Finally, it occurs to us that maybe more companies in the CPG business ought to be looking at alternative packaging for their products. Some companies, like Campbell Soup, have done just that…but largely, most companies are packaging their products pretty much the same way they always have.

In 2004 and beyond, “outside the box thinking” ought to be more than a metaphor.