The Best Options and Methods for Modern Winery Packaging

- Appeared in The Grapevine magazine, July 2023 issue (Read here)

The Best Options and Methods for Modern Winery Packaging ~ By Alyssa L. Ochs  

Many people view packaging as a functional and practical aspect of the wine business. Still, it is also an opportunity to get creative and help your wines stand out from the competition. These days, there are many different ways to package wine for consumption, especially if you’re looking to go eco-friendly, be innovative or uniquely build your brand. In this article, we are looking at the importance of modern wine packaging, as well as the most significant considerations to keep in mind and new ideas to possibly add to your current business strategy.

Types of Wine Packaging

There are many different options for packaging wine, so many wineries choose a combination of methods to save money, entice customers or preserve the best quality. There are various sizes and shapes of wine bottles to consider, as well as wine barrels and wine closures, such as natural and synthetic corks, bar toppers and screwtops. Wineries use other packaging products, such as shrink wrap, Tetra Paks, Styrofoam, cartons, labels and pallets. Miscellaneous packaging supplies that wineries may need include tape, cushioning, newsprint and mailing tubes.

Beyond these basics, there are bag-in-box wine packaging products, paper wine bottle bags, bottle carriers and sampler gift boxes as packaging options. Molded fiber shippers and case pack trays can accommodate different bottle sizes, shapes and quantities. Foam shippers come in stand-up, lay-down, and large format options, while airline totes are good six-bottle options. To provide customers with a unique and personalized experience, it may also be worth looking into custom-printed wine totes, custom wooded presentation boxes and custom printed bags with tissue paper.

Machinery Used to Package Wine

In addition to all of these miscellaneous supplies useful for packaging wine, there are also machines available to help automate the process and increase efficiency. There are pros and cons to using automatic vs. manual means of packaging, but something to remember is that you may be able to either buy or lease packaging machinery based on your needs.

Types of machines used for packaging are case sealer machines, palletizers, automatic stretch wrappers, conveyors, case erectors, sealers and inkjet printers that print directly onto boxes. When shopping for wine packaging machinery, it is also beneficial to choose suppliers with factory-trained technicians, service contracts and a full line of replacement parts for future repair needs.

One company specializing in winery packaging is A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This company supplies packers, case sealers and palletizers for end-of-line wine packaging and has several options available to wineries.

Bryan Sinicrope, the VP of marketing and integrator sales, told The Grapevine Magazine, “From our perspective as a secondary packaging machine supplier, we are seeing an increased interest in automation from wineries of all sizes. Traditionally it was difficult for smaller wineries to justify the capital equipment expenditures to upgrade, but the current emphasis on ergonomics and worker safety, combined with labor shortages, has changed this perspective. There are multiple options for upgrading end-of-line packaging, including robotics and semi-automatic machines that have a lower cost of entry.”

Sinicrope also said that many wineries are looking for more flexibility in their packaging lines to serve new market segments.

“We are having requests for machinery that easily accommodates different package styles, such as small bottles, cartons and cans, as well as multiple secondary packages, including display cases and trays, in addition to traditional packaging.”

Sinicrope said that A-B-C Packaging stands out in the industry for wine packaging because its equipment ensures reliable performance and low maintenance, which reduces the cost of ownership. He also said that A-B-C’s machines have great flexibility and quick changeover and that the customized solutions they offer from the standard line of equipment keep costs down and minimize delivery time.

Product Recommendations and Highlights

Sinicrope from A-B-C- Packaging told The Grapevine Magazine that for bottled wine, his company generally uses robotic and pick-and-place machines.

“For pouch-packaged or cartoned wine, our robot packer provides maximum flexibility to pack into cases or trays, with a servo-powered product feed, gentle robotic packing and quick changeover at the operator station,” he said. “We also offer a semi-automatic carton packer for smaller operations that package wine in cartons, at speeds up to 10 cases per minute.”

A-B-C Packaging offers case sealing machines for a range of speeds to seal the top case flaps with adhesive or tape. The company provides conventional low-level, robot and semi-automatic palletizers for palletizing based on a winery’s budget, available space, flexibility requirements, speed and personal preference.

“Our low-level machines offer easy installation, and the floor-level control and maintenance keep operating costs low,” said Sinicrope. “A-B-C’s robot palletizers offer high flexibility to handle multiple product types with minimal hardware. Finally, our semi-automatic palletizers offer economy and flexibility for small wineries looking to upgrade.”

A-B-C has been supplying end-of-line packaging to the winery industry for over 50 years and understands the importance of maintaining the primary package integrity because many consumers will not select a bottle with even minor label or seal damage.

“Our decasers and depalletizers unload single-file bottles with minimum contact to eliminate potential damage that can cause failure on the bottling line or in distribution,” Sinicrope said. “Case erectors have exclusive features to ensure square cases for top performance at the packer. And all our packers are no-drop to ensure soft loading while protecting the labels and closures.”

Another company specializing in this industry is Custom Wine Packaging, a husband and wife team who have been in the corrugated box and custom packaging industry for over 30 years. They shifted their focus toward serving wineries and vineyards in 2014, starting with their home state of Texas and then branching out to reach wine businesses all across the U.S.

Garry Clark, the owner of Custom Wine Packaging, told The Grapevine Magazine, “We supply everything from shipping cartons to gift packaging and, of course, wine totes. The wine totes are commonly used for wine club pick-up or customer carry-out. These boxes usually display a winery’s logo, address, website, and other information.”

Packaging Considerations

There are a lot of questions that winery owners must ask themselves before committing to a particular packaging strategy. For example, there are questions about how many units are needed, how many variations you would like, how packaging can be an extension of your brand and if you can implement any innovations.

In terms of budget, wineries need to think about the upfront costs for design and products and potential future costs for breakage, additional fillers and other unforeseen needs. It may be beneficial to buy packaging products in bulk for production costs, storage and transportation handling. Also, wineries may benefit from getting professional artistic help with their packaging design if there isn’t a skilled person with extra time to commit on the staff.

Clark from Custom Wine Packaging said, “Wine packing is super important for the wines to make it from point A to point B without breakage. The totes are, in my opinion, a traveling billboard seen by many people, especially at parties and events. A lot of information can be printed directly on the totes.”

A consideration that Sinicrope from A-B-C Packaging pointed out was whether you choose to buy bottles in bulk or reshipper cases.

“Bulk bottles are less expensive per unit, but you will need a much larger initial investment with a depalletizer, case erector and partition inserter,” Sinicrope said. “With reshipper cases, one necks-down decaser or necks-up unpacker can unload and single-file your bottles. Do the math and then decide what is best for your winery.”

He also said that when looking at machines, consider how much automation you need.

“It can be a costly mistake to buy machinery for projected speeds or sizes that you may never utilize,” Sinicrope said. “Better to make sure the machinery you buy suits your line now and offers a reasonable degree of flexibility.”

Innovations and Advice

Both new and well-established wineries of all sizes understand how important wine packaging is for product preservation, brand awareness and positively differentiating a product. This can be accomplished with a custom logo, marketing slogan that resonates with customers or appearance that is classic, minimal or colorful. Many people choose a wine based on its packaging, so this is a great chance to show off your creativity with custom shapes, styles, themes and materials.

Lately, there has been a lot of innovation in the wine packaging industry with everything from QR codes that link to wine information to double insulation to keep the wine cool without refrigeration. Recyclable bottle designs and other types of eco-friendly packaging are trending, as well as augmented reality wine labels connected to a smartphone app for enhanced engagement. New glass shapes and textures can make your products stand out and engage the senses, such as flat wine bottles that are compact, eco-friendly, unique and very shippable. Another eco-friendly idea for wine packaging is eliminating foil seals or replacing them with seals from renewable sources. Buying shippers with high recycled content and packing in tight-pack shippers to eliminate the need for case partitions can also help a winery be more environmentally conscious.

Clark from Custom Wine Packaging said that his company developed a few solutions for shipping wine during the hot season, including cold pack shippers that have been a big hit. This product works by allowing the wine to pop the corks when it reaches a specific temperature.

“We have also come out with this year and are about to introduce our new wine sleeve shipping box that uses a sleeve instead of a pulp tray,” Clark said. “Many of the smaller wineries don’t have a lot of storage space, and this new method will help in that area. The package is a bit smaller than the commonly used box with pulp trays, and it may be cheaper for shipping.”

Clark shared, “We also have several types of gift boxes that hold a bottle of wine and a couple of wine glasses, which make great gift ideas. There is another gift box we offer that holds a wide variety of wine glasses, cheeses and whatever else the mind can run with.”

Sinicrope from A-B-C Packaging advises wineries to define their packaging goals before talking to suppliers so that they can help you find the best solution for your winery.

“You can learn from your potential suppliers, as they live packaging machinery every day,” Sinicrope said. “They may offer important insights that can really help you when designing your line layout, specifying your machines and getting the most out of your packaging automation.”

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