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Wine packaging

What’s trending in wine packaging in SA and elsewhere?

Judy Brower, founder of, says that South African wine consumers, generally, are attracted to what is different and what tells a story. In a market with 8 000 SKUs, fitting that bill is a considerable challenge. This article looks at how packaging, here and abroad, is shaping the wine game.

GLOBAL demand for wine packaging is set to grow by 2.3% a year to US$22.8-billion by 2020. This forecast is contained in the study ‘World wine packaging: containers, closures and accessories’ by US-based The Freedonia Group.

Glass bottles, considered by many an essential part of the wine experience, will continue to dominate and accounted for about 85% of the global total in 2015.  However, the costs of shipping glass will dent this share a little. Since most still wine is consumed not long after it is made, bottles are not always necessary, hence the rise of bag-in-box containers, aseptic cartons, plastic bottles, cans and cups.

Europe will continue to be the largest regional wine packaging market for the foreseeable future, while North America and the Asia/Pacific region will offer better growth opportunities to 2020.

In Australia, wine for domestic consumption is often in bag-in-box containers, which dominate young wines sold at lower prices. While glass bottles are still widely used, they are usually sealed with a screw cap instead of a cork, a trend that is also evident in the local market.

At the same time, much of Australia’s exported wine is packaged to cater to preferences of consumers in destination markets, some of which, such as the UK, are generally receptive to wine that is not classically bottled in glass and sealed with a cork.

The report goes on to say that shipping costs have prompted a move to lighter-weight containers, including lighter glass bottles, but it has also increased the appeal of shipping wine in bulk. A number of major wine producing countries, South Africa among them, ship a considerable share of the wine they export in bulk.

Packs pivotal to product preference

The pivotal role of packaging to product choice is emphasised by a recent Nielsen study on the US market, with wine relying heavily on the advertising that happens on shelf rather than in the media.

With 64% of consumers trying a new product simply because the package catches their eye, package design is one of the most underappreciated marketing levers.

The study evaluated package designs for 34 select top-selling and up-and-coming wines among 2 700 American consumers. Understanding what catches consumers’ eyes at the shelf and translates into purchases can help wine brands and design agencies develop packaging that grabs attention, drives consumer preference and builds brand equity, the study states.

In a crowded marketplace, bottles have only few seconds to grab consumers’ attention before the opportunity is lost. Crafting a label with immediate appeal is key. The study found that the most visible bottles were seen by up to 77% more consumers than the least visible bottles. Additionally, some bottles held consumers’ interest by up to 2.5 times longer than others.

For wines under $20, bottles with brightly coloured (red, orange, gold etc) labels and capsules tended to fare best. In the over-$20 price level, bottles with a bold or contrarian look stood out.

Package designs for lower-priced wines often aim to appear approachable and easy to discern, some wooing consumers with dark, classy and sleek bottles that convey a premium image at a less-than-premium price.

Wines over $20 are typically more traditional, with neutral colour schemes and classic typefaces, creating an opportunity for brands to push the limits with disruptive package designs.

Age also plays a role. Millennials prefer more adventurous and fun bottle designs. For wines over $10, the winning bottle designs are bold and distinctive, with no notable gender differences. On the other hand, more traditional designs tend to go down better with generation-xers and baby boomers.

Attracting the eye in SA

Judy Brower, founder of, says that standing out in the sea of products available locally can be difficult, not to mention costly, but there are several innovations that are attracting great interest currently.

Protea winesThe Rhebokskloof pouch and Anthonij Rupert Wyne Protea wrap-around labels (left) are among these, she reveals. Stellenbosch Vineyards’ Infusion range of wine and fruit flavours, lightly spritzed, has new wine-consumer appeal.

‘Those who don’t yet have a palate for wine usually enter the market through sweet, easy-drinking options,’ Judy states. ‘Infusion creates this appeal through its young, vibrant packaging.’

The trick in attracting new devotees is telling the story of a brand without writing an essay on its life history, she emphasises. ‘The legends on many back labels are long and deadly boring. And, as any youngster will tell you, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.’

It’s dry, but the wine keeps flowing

The South African wine industry is weathering the lack of storm and, despite the drought, is facing a rosé outlook. This is according to BMI research released recently.

The research indicates that wine volumes and value were up year-on-year during 2015, with almost half of volumes being exported. The company attributes local market growth to new consumers entering the market in sweet red and rosé wine markets and to increased marketing and promotional activities, driven by the popularity of 3-litre and 5-litre packs, which are cheaper and considered better value for money packs than the traditional 750ml glass bottle.

The volume of wine sold in bulk packaging continued to grow, putting pressure on the local packaging industry. The UK remained the main export destination, followed by Germany. African countries such as Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Mauritius and Zimbabwe remain good customers for South African wines, with volumes increasing.

Within the borders, the study continues, Gauteng, KZN and the Western Cape showed good growth during the year, given that disposable income in these metropolitan regions is believed to be above average, with consumers able to purchase higher-priced products, such as wine.

Channel distribution also remained similar to the previous year. The off-consumption channel is growing in volume with more retail stores increasing their marketing campaigns in order to gain more customers. Wine products are easily available online where they can be delivered quickly to their destination.

The wine market is expected to grow in 2016 but at a lower rate as the drought affected the crops planted and the yield expected to be harvested. However, the industry should recover in the medium-term from the low yield and slow economic growth.

Local is lekker wherever you go

Whether the global palate is for chenin or shiraz, South African wines seem to be the flavour of the year, if not the decade. And the trend is set to continue, given the recent boost of an agreement between the EU and the SA Customs Union that will more than double the current annual duty-free allowance of 48-million litres to 110-million litres.

Although BMI noted a drop in exports in 2015, this market is expected to grow by 13% over the next decade, according to the latest Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy baseline research.

Michael Mokhoro, stakeholder relationship manager for the local wine and brandy industries, was recently quoted as saying that in the interests of promoting South Africa’s wine reputation and the sustainability of its exports, initially 70% of the 110-million litre quota will be directed to packaged wines, which are those in bottles or other containers of 2-litres or less.

‘We hope to see winemakers capitalise on this opportunity to build Brand South Africa, as well as the reputation of their own brands,’ Michael said.

Wine exports reached 313-million litres in 2015, compared to 122-million in 2000. The EU continued to account for the lion’s share of exports, taking 75% of annual volumes, worth R5-billion.

The new allowance will undoubtedly have a marked impact on volumes in the years to come.

Locally, the projection is that it will create a further 100 000 jobs in the wine industry by 2025. The industry currently employs about 275 000 people.

Bota to barrel

Maverick wine packsBulk wine packs have come a long way since the days of the crude foil bag. Since that pack’s banning almost 10 years ago, Maverick Packaging has carved a niche for itself in the export market with its family of super-sized pouches (left) that combine strength and integrity with the aesthetics of high-end graphics.

The range comprises a handful of different designs in capacities ranging from 750ml to 5-litres. They are self-standing, extend product shelf-life, chill the contents twice as fast as glass and are suitable for outdoor use at festivals and the like. Additionally, they consume 50% less energy and generate 75% fewer emissions in manufacture.

In the range are SUPerPouch, SUPerJug, SUPerBarrel and SUPerBota, which is  modelled on an ancient Spanish container traditionally made of leather.

The SUPerBarrel was a beverage packaging category finalist in the 2016 Afristar Awards for its double gusseted design with bottom fitment and excellent barrier properties. The first consignment of SUPerBarrel pouches left Cape Town for Astrapouch North America in April.

Says Janice Mulholland, who heads up Maverick’s production and internal sales functions: ‘Just by looking at the barrel design, the customer automatically associates the contents with products traditionally stored in barrels. Hence, it is ideal for wine and other alcoholic drinks.

‘The pack is strong, but flexible, and protects the product, sustaining its shelf-life especially after opening. The pilfer-proof tap allows no oxygen ingress so wine stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening. Another advantage is that the contents are chilled in 15 minutes.  A standard bag-in-box handle makes SUPerBarrel easy to carry.

‘The packs, which are available in 1.5-litre and 3-litre capacities as printed or unprinted, metallised, clear or white options, are also lightweight, reducing shipping costs.’

The local potential for the packs remains largely untapped, says Janice. ‘Many people still associate such flexible packs with inferior wines but this is a completely false perception. Our pouches have a decidedly upmarket look and feel and we are proud that they have become a pack of choice for leading brands such as Leopard’s Leap.’

Packaging: the science and the art

With the vast range of wines on the shelves and the growing prominence of social media platforms as marketing tools, impact and eye appeal are everything. Brand owners are thinking outside the bottle to complement what’s inside the bottle and ensure that their product rises to top of mind and stays there.

Marsha Pienaar, NPD and marketing manager of Glass Decorations, explains that global trends are influencing the local market. ‘Globally, successful packaging has meaning and identity, and reflects environmental responsibility,’ she says. ‘Currently, craft is key and trendsetting consumers are asking for contents and packaging that spark a conversation and engage the senses of taste, touch and sight.’

Glass Decorations offers a full spectrum of decoration, from the minimalistic to the intricate. Full-colour designs, simple artwork in a single colour, premium foiling, bright colour coatings as well as beautiful wraparound patterns are all in vogue internationally and locally. Creativity and innovation are the order of the day.

‘All manner of sophisticated design is available to meet the demands of the target market, price level and product type,’ Marsha stresses. ‘People are visual creatures by nature and packaging needs to communicate a positive experience as it is what attracts the consumer initially.

‘Consumers set the trends and packaging innovators must follow.’

Matt movement gains momentum

Embossing is so last era. Foil is no longer flavour of the month. Enter matt material and the movement to highbuild.

This is according to Grant Watson, sales director of Rotolabel, who predicts the trend will gain momentum. ‘There is a growing range of matt materials being brought in to take over as the demand for embossing and foil labels in the wine industry declines.

‘Natural and craft are currently on trend as they create an image that puts brands ahead in a saturated market,’ Grant states. ‘Designers are looking for textured papers with visual and tactile consumer appeal, but the magic is lost if the label turns grey when wet or on ice.

‘Consequently, current materials boast superior wet opacity that puts them in a class of their own. Even after hours in an ice bucket, the label materials, inks and other embellishments look as solid and vibrant as when dry.’

Products finding favour include Raflatac’s icy white and Fasson’s white and extra white uncoated papers with wet strength and mould-proof properties designed to withstand the conditions of fridge and ice bucket.

‘Our wine customers also want to tell a story with their wine labels, which plays to the strengths of the digital arena, where flexibility is maximised and personalisation possibilities are vast,’ he says. ‘The highbuild approach of applying a high-gloss varnish using a silkscreen through a coarser mesh achieves a more prominent and tactile finish that makes a great impact.’

The lure of the label

Saboteur WinesHow well do South African wine labels fare on creativity and execution of concept? The judges of the second annual Wine Label Design Awards held earlier this year pondered these issues and concluded that, while the overall standard was fair, there was little of true excellence.

As was the case in year one, they declared, work frequently appeared unresolved, with a great idea compromised by a lack of craft or vice versa.

The competition, sponsored by Rotolabel, rewards outstanding design as an influence on wine purchases – designs that identify ownership, show origins, describe contents and ultimately persuade buyers.

The judges consider whether labels are inspired, whether graphic design is effectively used to differentiate a product and motivate purchase, and whether design conveys a compelling sense of self and is backed by sound strategic thinking.

This year, ‘design by committee’ emerged as a problem, with too many stakeholders involved, resulting in a muddled outcome rather than one individual’s idea followed through.

Often, solutions seemed more complicated than necessary, they said, giving weight to the modern philosophy of ‘less is more’.

Simplicity and restraint are to be commended, defined not by what is there, but what is not, the panel concluded.

Caption: Saboteur Wines, Gold Winner in the 2016 Wine Label Design Awards, see all the winners here

Far from a shrinking market

On every shrink-sleeve enrobed bottle is a message that can’t be ignored – it says loudly and clearly ‘buy me’. These different, exciting and eye-catching packs are perfect for a target market of younger consumers who favour easy-to-drink wines, sparkling wines, wine mix drinks, spirit shooters and liqueurs.

Uwe Bögl is founder of Rako-Tamperseal, a pioneer of shrink sleeves and tamper seals. ‘We are experiencing rapid growth in the market for shrink sleeves compared to only moderate growth for self-adhesive labelling,’ he says. ‘Sleeves not only offer the impact of 360° decoration, but also protect the product from UV rays.’

Rako-Tamperseal’s growth since its inception in 2010 attests to the popularity of shrink sleeves, particularly in Africa. The company reached a turnover of R35-million this year, an increase of 60% over the previous year. As a full service provider for the food, beverage and liquor industries, Rako has clients throughout southern Africa and exports 30% of its products.

The company’s decoration and tamperseal shrink sleeve solutions for the wine and liquor industries are printed on two eight-colour Gallus ECS UV-flexopresses or two HP Indigo digital presses, says Uwe.

High-shrink PVC and PET films are converted at the ISO 9001- and HACCP-certified plant in Cape Town.

He explains: ‘We strive for sustainable packaging and decoration solutions through thinner films (from 50 to 30µm), recyclable films and digital printing, all geared to reduce the carbon footprint of our products.’

Among the Rako innovations launched into the local market are holographic tamper sleeves, metallic or holographic foiling, pearlescent iriodin varnishes and inks, as well as individualised and personalised printing.

Rako most recently introduced the holographic tamperseal, which, Uwe says, is the most cost-efficient security feature available to the wine and liquor industry, providing a high level of security.

Tamperseals are particularly relevant in Africa, with its high levels of counterfeiting, he adds.

Cartons: the whole enviro-friendly package

When the controversial papsak, or foil bag, was banned in South Africa in 2007, the carton was waiting in the wings to capture a steady stream of the wine action. It filled the requirement that wine be sold in a self-supporting container, which is one that retains its original shape whether full or empty.

Says Tetra Pak South Africa’s communications director, Penny Ntuli: ‘The carton pack happily fulfils the role of package for high-value, premium wines as well as value wines, since the packaging’s cost throughout the supply chain is significantly lower than that of glass alternatives.’

Apart from strength and durability, one of the biggest benefits is their environmental friendliness. ‘About half the weight of a case of wine in bottles is the glass,’ says Penny. ‘The lighter alternative carton packaging means that carbon emissions created during transportation are more for the actual wine and less for the packaging.’

Wine producer Arniston Bay is a case in point, she adds. ‘It began using cartons instead of bottles in 2008 at around 1/20 of the weight and 1/5 of the carbon emissions,’ she explains. ‘The same producer also found that it could transport up to a third more cartons in a single shipping. Carton packs are also 100% recyclable and, at worst, 75% made from renewable materials.’

Extended shelf-life is another advantage, with the aseptic packaging process and airtight nature of the pack preventing the wines from spoiling and ensuring a shelf-life of around 12 months. Cartons also offer exceptional shelf presence opportunities for vineyards and their brands and are ideal for public spaces where glass presents a risk of injury.

Internationally, the carton is coming into its own as a wine pack. ‘It has been used to differentiate high-quality varietal wines and grow market share and revenues as a result of more competitive pricing, and shelf and brand presence,’ concludes Penny.

Source: PACKAGiNG & Print Magazine, Sept 2016 issue