Building Value with Wine Packaging

Meiomi founder discusses innovative packaging with an impact

by Andrew Adams
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Meiomi founder Joe Wagner discusses packaging at the second annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference in Napa.
Napa, Calif.—More than 300 people attended the second annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference in Napa on Wednesday to gain insights on new wine packaging innovations as well as connect with suppliers.

The event took place at the former Copia building and began with a keynote address by Joe Wagner, who founded the Meiomi wine brand in 2006. Wagner recently sold the brand to Constellation Brands for $315 million and told an audience of 250 people inside the main theater at Copia that packaging played a pivotal role in achieving that valuation.

He said working with designer Tony Auston of the Auston Design Group helped give the Meiomi label a traditional look that still appeared innovative on the shelf. Auston made small but significant changes to the original label, and that made a major impact. “The details make a huge difference in a brand,” he said.

Choosing a screwcap also made the brand popular with bartenders and others in the trade, because the wine stayed fresher longer and was easy to open and serve. Strong sales in the on-premise channel helped the brand expand and gain value.

Wagner founded his own company, Copper Cane Wine & Provisions, in 2014, and one of the company’s other signature brands is Belle Glos, which is marked by a large dollop of wax that not only covers the closure but most of the upper half of the bottle. Wagner admitted that his father, Caymus Vineyards' founder Chuck Wagner told him he’d come to regret using wax, and that’s become a bit true. Every case of Belle Glos includes directions on removing the wax to get to the cork and, completely opposite to Meiomi, Wagner said he’s fielded many complaints from sommeliers and others in the trade who dislike the added steps of removing the wax.

But Wagner said that when the recession coincided with the surge in popularity for Pinot Noir—thanks to the movie Sideways—the wax helped Belle Glos stand out. He said it created a package that stands on its own two feet. Wagner said he’s working with an Italian company to develop a closure of injected molded nylon that will be even easier to remove.

Other sessions, packaging design contest winners
The conference also featured a panel discussion by some of the industry’s top packaging designers, a session on ensuring cork quality and an in-depth examination of an extensive survey of consumer buying habits based on packaging by Nielsen. Watch for more articles detailing these insights on winesandvines.com and in the print edition of Wines & Vines.

Between sessions, attendees had a chance to participate in “speed dating with designers.” Winemakers, winery owners, marketing staff and others brought examples of their current packaging or proposals and had a chance to meet with one of several expert designers. At the sound of a bell, the attendees moved on to the next designer to get fresh eyes and different opinions on their packaging strategy.

At the same time, those attending the conference also could vote on entries for the inaugural Wines & Vines Wine Packaging Competition. Attendees selected two winners from 24 entries submitted by some of the 39 companies exhibiting at the event to win the Best Overall Package and Most Innovative Packaging awards. Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon presented the award for Most Innovative Packaging to Union Pack, which entered the package for St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery's estate brandy made from Moscato grapes. The award for Best Overall Package went to Sara Nelson of Sara Nelson Design for Sunshine Valley Vineyards' 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The packaging conference, design contest and speed dating with designers wil return in August 2016.

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