November 2014 Issue of Wines & Vines

From Branding to Bottling

A dozen packaging innovations could improve your bottom line

by Jane Firstenfeld
Engraving equipment
Gravotech's Gravograph M40DeepVice is suitable for engraving personalized wine bottles.

Our November issue focuses on the new products and services reported by hundreds of suppliers to the North American wine industry. Wine packaging is among the most progressive segments in terms of innovation; more than 100 suppliers chose to be featured in the packaging section of our listings.

From this compilation of valuable information, we cherry-picked a dozen packaging suppliers with attention-grabbing responses. Take a look at what they are offering, and then check out what else is available within the comprehensive listings starting on page 35.

Brand development and package design
No matter how striking and well executed, a wine package is not truly effective unless it honestly reflects its brand. Honing and understanding the brand is a challenge for many wineries. Two established firms provided details of the branding process and how to incorporate the result of those efforts into your packaging process.


  • New products and services from brand development to the bottling line can help make wine packages more effective.
  • Consider co-branding with a compatible product for added marketing power.
  • An investment in new or more efficient packaging can boost your efficiency and your bottom line.

David Schuemann, CEO of CF Napa, spoke at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference this August and presented his design work.

For this issue, Schuemann described the company’s DNA (Discovering New Avenues) collaboration process, which allows clients to establish a cohesive brand voice and identity across package design and marketing.

He noted, “In the United States alone, 99,000-plus new wine labels were approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in 2013,” making marketing more challenging and important than ever.

“One of the keys to success is exceptional design and packaging. There is no question about it: With all sorts of consumer products, visually appealing packaging piques our interest and invites trial. But in the world of wine, the art of design engages a fascinating additional truth: We drink with our eyes,” Schuemann emphasized.

“Not all of our clients go through this entire process. If they feel they have their brand essence and/or story developed, we work with them to develop packaging and other design deliverables,” Schuemann said.

The DNA process includes these key steps:

• Discover brand essence

• Identify key brand attributes

• Build story

• Finalize brand positioning personality

• Develop consumer reasons to believe

• Develop evocative design

• Activation: Develop marketing that activates sales through consumer connection with reasons to believe.

The methodology is based on a single fundamental lesson, Schuemann said. “Differentiated strategic positioning and evocative design are both essential for establishing an emotional and cognitive connection between consumer and brand. When historical truth, culture, lifestyle and strategic positioning are balanced correctly in artful design, the results are both visually appealing and commercially successful.”

Pasco, Wash.-based Sara Nelson Design submitted a listing that highlights success with cross-promotion and bottle wraps.

Lost Oak Winery, a 3,000-case operation near Austin, Texas, wanted to develop a second label that spoke to “the millennial Texan woman.” Nelson Design’s research revealed that this audience is much like other millennial women, but with a heightened sense of fashion and beauty.

“We also discovered that they are passionate about their boots,” Nelson said. “With this knowledge, we approached Lane Boots with a cooperative marketing strategy. The popular boot manufacturer agreed and even came up with the name: Vintage Lane.”

Each varietal label features a different Lane boot, with a corresponding fanciful name: e.g. “Dawson Red.” As with cooperative advertising, two distinct companies reap promotional benefits from this cross-branding approach.

Cultura Wines, a 1,600-case winery in Zillah, Wash., wanted to put a finishing touch on its package by adding a wine wrap. Nelson described it: “Simple paper wraps around the bottle and twists at the neck add a layer of elegance and branding to the already high-end presentation while protecting the black label from scuffing.”

The wines, which originate from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, retail for $40 per bottle.

Get small containers
Since it debuted in the United States in 2010, Astrapouch has become a favored wine container, especially for outdoor use. Dave Moynihan, president of Astrapouch North America, which brought the boxless bags to America in 1.5-liter size, recently added single-serve 187ml and 375ml Astraminis.

These, he said, are especially appropriate for local events such as concerts, sports and farmers markets, “where glass is a nuisance and the customer prefers a glass of wine to a can of beer. Small wineries are also pouching and selling through tasting rooms and at the register on the way out or in the cold box” at retail outets.

“Some wineries are using the 187ml pouches in their sales and marketing efforts for wine clubs. It’s also a convenient way to send a sample to prospective customers for tasting,” Moynihahn reported.

The market, he conceded, is still “very small at this point.” Astrapouch also supplies the “Astrofill 2000.” It’s a small, benchtop machine that fills Astrapouch containers, retailing for $6,995.

Closures and capsules
If your portfolio includes sparkling wines, Amcor Flexibles American Canyon has an app for that. “MyCoiffe, an iPad app, allows users to customize sparkling foils online, with a two-week promise for capsule production time.” With a minimum order size of 250 foils, it’s recommended for those who need smaller quantities, according to marketing coordinator Jenna Riggan.

The app is free. Initially only for Macs, it will soon be compatible with other platforms. Start by choosing your capsule length, then customize it with foil colors, fonts, font colors and custom text. The sparkling foils are polylaminate/aluminum.

Another development for sparkling wine producers is Vinstar Smart, “the first fine wine closure with a PVC-free granulate gasket,” according to Elena Zaharieva. Also suitable for still wines, and compatible with existing screwcap applicators, it can hold internal pressure up to 4 bars. Available in 30mm x 60mm and 28mm x 44mm sizes, Vinstar Smart can be customized with lithography, offset or hot-foil printing and embossing.

“Sparkling wine has been one category that has more or less escaped the move toward aluminum screwcaps, because standard SARAN-based liners are not suitable for sparkling drinks,” Zaharieva said, citing costs of plastic liners and altered capping equipment and environmental requirements.

Sparkling wine consumption is growing, and screwcaps are especially popular among young people and women because they are easily opened and resealable, she said. The new gasket maintains traditional bottle appearance and retains air-tightness. Previously marketed in Germany and the U.K., Vinstar Smart launched in North America in February.

Capsule manufacturer Maverick has added Schepers line-screen engraving printing to enhance capsule branding. “Fine script on capsules complements label artwork,” commented Maverick marketing coordinator Shelby White.

Maverick works with an engraver to perfect the process for the wine industry. “Our customers and designers are developing more challenging artwork that can sometimes require more detailed tooling,” she said. “Though this technology is slightly more expensive then our standard chemically etched engraving, the favorable results warrant the additional costs.”

The print cylinder engraving is effective on both PVC and polylaminate capsules. Diageo, Treasury Wine Estates, Fetzer Vineyards, Trinchero Family Estates and Winery Exchange are among Maverick’s wine industry clients using the process.

Every element of a wine package can enhance the brand message. An ink-free cork laser-printing process from M.A. Silva provides the “highest capable image resolution for natural cork stoppers,” said marketing specialist Elke Wolfe. “No ink touches the cork.”

The Décork D-CLP laser printer can embellish corks with pictures or shades and personalize them with numbers, codes or authenticity marks. “It creates perfectly detailed 3D-style imaging. High-definition shading along with the darkest printing capability allow for distinctive illustrative or photographic rendering to be visually sharp,” Wolfe said.

“Many wineries are fascinated by the capability to add traceability,” she added. Special marketing programs can use numbering for limited production wines or code corks for lottery drawings.

“Similar to fire branding, laser technology doesn’t need ink to burn the artwork onto the cork,” according to Wolfe. The cost depends on the artwork; there is no charge for a die.

M.A. Silva is the first to offer this technology. Already it’s favored by Grgich Hill Estate, Nova Wines and Bella Vineyards.

Embellish the bottle
We cover bottle décor on a regular basis, but like every packaging element, suppliers continue to expand and upgrade options to make bottles pop.

Bergin Glass Impressions in Napa increased its screenprinting capacities by adding a fully automated 12-station, nine-color machine on its No. 1 high-speed line. The new print machine is also equipped with camera registration to ensure between-seam accuracy even on high-speed print runs.

According to CEO and president Mike Bergin, the company’s automated high-speed line has a dedicated Lehr furnace and can run at speeds upward of 65 bottles per minute. The two high-speed lines, he said, “act in concert—one running while the other is being set up with the next run, so we can move immediately to the next run and keep our through-put at 45,000-50,000 bottles per day.”

For shorter runs of 100-1,000 cases, Bergin has seven screen-print machines that can print 100 to 1,000 cases during a 20-hour production day. For these short runs, “We might run upward of five to 10 different jobs on various print machines. We load bottles by the neck with an operator to feed them into the canisters that hold them in place via vacuum. The operator feels for the glass seam as they insert, so that every bottle is printed between the glass seams. These semi-automatic machines run at approximately 22 to 26 bottles per minute,” Bergin said.

Bottle engraving is a long-established technology used to decorate ultra-high-end wine bottles. Gravotech in Duluth, Minn., introduced a “compact and versatile computerized engraving system” for use on glass, crystal, plastic and stainless steal. The Gravograph M40DeepVice (M40DV) has cylindrical capability suitable for personalizing wine bottles and glasses.

According to marketing coordinator Katie Schleucher Perkins, the M40DV is a DIY device that wineries can use to customize glass in-house using simple software. Operators need about an hour of training.

Metallic finishes, foil and inks are now more accessible for labels and screen-printed bottles. Wineries that want an even more high-end look for their packages are also adopting metal labels. Visually outstanding and highly tactile, “They are more expensive than paper. They are for specific price-point wine,” said Rui Eduardo Bastos Amaro, president of Bastos LLC in St. Helena, Calif.

The adhesive metal labels have a peel-off backing. “The adhesive is very powerful and fuses with glass, or over paper, within three seconds,” Bastos explained. “The labels are applied by hand. We supply two free template boxes for application, and we train the (bottling line) crews on their application. A good operator can apply six to eight labels per minute.”

Prices range from 30 cents for a simple medallion to $4 each for a large piece like the Reynolds Family “Steadfast.” Fused with a printed paper backing,
the striking front label can double as
the back label containing government requirements that are visible through the bottle, Bastos said.

Take the bumps out of bottling
Conversations with package designers and wineries frequently unearth horror stories along the bottling line. Many wineries only bottle for a few days per year, while mobile and contract bottlers encounter unfamiliar and irregular package elements. Suppliers of packaging equipment strive to smooth out the process.

For wineries of all sizes, the bottle-ordering process has changed. “In the past, wineries purchased their bottles in re-shipper cases. The bottles would be removed from the case, cleaned, filled, corked, labeled and then repacked into the reshippers”, said Bryan Sinicrope, vice president of sales and marketing at A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp. of Tarpon Springs, Fla.

“Wineries started purchasing bottles in bulk. It’s a more economical solution and eliminates production issues caused by reusing the corrugated cases,” Sinicrope said. “Small wineries can benefit from buying bottles in bulk, but there are capital equipment costs to this—bulk depalletizer, case erector, partition inserter—that may make it financially unfeasible.”

Larger wineries led the way by moving to bulk bottle shipments; however, “If the numbers work out, smaller wineries can also benefit from this technology. Typically larger wineries running between 200 and 300 bottles per minute use a bulk-bottle depalletizer.

Bottle suppliers using reshipper cases can also benefit from this technology since they work with reverse-tapered bottles, according to Sinicrope.

A-B-C’s model 108RT depalletizers can run different sizes of reverse-taper and straight-sided bottles from 750ml to 1.5 liters with no change parts. The reverse-taper depalletizer cost is “typically only 15% higher than standard mode depalletizers, depending on speed, conveyors and accessories required, and requires no special equipment or training.

Filling the bottles without adding oxygen can be an overlooked concern. Bottlers with deep pockets may want to consider the new GAI electro-pneumatic filler, which handles runs of 3,000 to 15,000 bottles per hour, offered by AWS Prospero.

It brings more precise fill levels and lower levels of dissolved oxygen (D.O.), according to Prospero’s Matt DiDonato. With between 12 and 48 filler spouts, it can handle bottle sizes from 375ml to 1.5 liters with no added maintenance.

The precision comes from electronically operated filler valves that “really nail down the fill height,” DiDonato said. “You can raise the temp up the product up to 40°F, which greatly reduces D.O. levels. Four electro-pneumatic valves are used to separately control the following circuits: 1. vacuum 2. tank gas 3. auto-leveling 4. de-gassing.”

With prices up to $340,000 for 600 to 3,000 bottle-per-hour machines, this filler is aimed at large wineries and mobile bottlers.

Now go shopping
This is just a sample of all the packaging goodies previewed in our new listings. Take a look at all of them on pages 35 to 78 to find products to improve your packages and your business.

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