Wine as a consumer product has become synonymous with the glass bottle, but many wineries are looking elsewhere for containers, and a leading alternative is bag-in-box format. According to data from Future Market Insights, the wine segment holds the largest share of bag-in-box production within the beverage industry.
From familiar grocery store brands to European wine co-ops to some of the most respected wineries, bag in box containers are finding a place on the table. Often referred to as BIB, these products have some strong selling points. As Jason Haas, general manager at Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, wrote in a recent blog piece, BIB “is by far the most effective package for reducing wine’s carbon footprint.”
BIB didn’t seem like a realistic option for Tablas Creek until recently, because the top of the price point for a 3L box of wine in the US market generally tops out around $30. For example, Bota Box—a consistent player on the BIB landscape—indicates that their products range from $5.99 to $22.99. “Given that our least expensive wine at the time was $25, and the box contains four bottles, I didn’t think it was an option for us,” writes Haas.
But there are reasons to consider this delivery method. Preservation is a big one. An open box can remain tasty for a few months in the fridge, thanks to simple technology that keeps oxygen away from the wine. Plus BIB is easy to store and transport, with outdoor enthusiasts being a leading market for containers that don’t break and are lightweight.
But it’s the reduced carbon footprint that truly presents a compelling case. Haas consulted an assessment published by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) to build his baseline for this aspect. “Compared to the packaging required to put that same wine in 750ml glass bottles, the carbon footprint of the bag-in-box package is 84% less, and the carbon footprint of distributing this lighter, more compact package is 60% less,” he writes. According to Haas, it weighs seven pounds—the four bottle equivalent would weigh 11 pounds.
While the US may just be opening up to this style of packaging, other regions have capitalized on the benefits. BIB has found a niche in the European market where this style of packaging is a growth segment. Market research out of France suggests that BIB represents 44% of the wine sales in supermarkets and they are popular options in local wine co-ops all over Europe. Wines of Chile, an organization of Chilean wine producers, reports that bag-in-box exports grew by over 19% in volume in 2020. Research from packaging supplier Smurfit Kappa and Wine Intelligence reports that that there were 3.7 million new BIB wine consumers in France and the UK during a six month period during late 2020 and early 2021.
“The rising demand for flexible and sustainable packaging solutions will continue driving sales, especially in the food and beverages sector,” according to a Future Market Insights analyst. “In order to cater to the rising demand, companies are focusing on various innovations.”
And consumers are adapting to the innovations. This month Tablas Creek Winery rolled out their first BIB product. Haas said it was time to “end the question” about the consumer appetite for buying a high-end wine in a box. “To that end, we’ve decided to dip our toe into this water,” he writes. The winery diverted 100 cases of their Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Counoise blend, 2021 Patelin de Tablas Rosé, into 300 3L BIB packs. It sold out in just four hours after it was announced to wine club members, with people begging for more on social media. On Instagram, one fan wrote: “I’ve been looking for more quality wines in a box. I hope there are more to come from you and other producers.”