Strong Packaging Creates Strong Wine Sales

Third annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference brings together experts in production, design and marketing

by Andrew Adams
Marketing executives from Michael David Winery in Lodi, Calif., shared the process behind creating new wines, brand names and packaging.

Yountville, Calif.—It doesn’t seem to matter how one gets there, but when you find the right packaging for your wine brand, you’re going to see better sales.

Finding the right design can come from quirky and offbeat ideas generated in-house and produced with local talent, or they can be the result of a detailed and exhaustive processes with leading design firms. Either way, if you can home in on an effective brand and packaging strategy, your wine brand will have a definitive advantage on retail shelves.

The trick is finding it.

Experts in design, retail and wine production all discussed how to strike the right balance of brand and packaging at the third annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference held today at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Nearly 450 people attended the show, which featured expert seminars, panel discussions, multiple tasting bars, a trade show and on-site brand consultations by several designers.

Packaging designer Kevin Shaw, the creative director and founder of Stranger & Stranger, decried the lack of innovation in wine packaging and provided numerous examples of how spirits, beer and even olive oil do a better job of being innovative.

He said feared the United States wine industry becoming a more homogenous sector, in which all wine starts to taste the same (to consumers at least) and even look the same. When that happens (as he said it did in the United Kingdom), the next step is steep discounting and an overall decline in quality. “No wonder consumers are bored, confused,” he said.

Shaw went so far as to offer free branding services from Stranger & Stranger for any wine company developing a truly unusual wine concept. “We want to shake the tree, so let’s make something,” he said.

As Shaw walked off the stage, he was approached by several people looking to pitch their ideas, and he handed each of them his business card.

The day began with a presentation by Melissa Phillips Stroud, vice president of sales and marketing for her family’s Michael David Winery in Lodi, Calif., and the winery’s director of marketing, Mike Stroh.

Founded by brothers Michael and David Phillips in 1984, Michael David has grown into a nationally distributed winery producing 600,000 cases per year. It’s been named a hot brand by Wine Business Monthly and earned other distinctions for the fast growth of several of its brands.

That sales success can be largely credited to the creation of brands such as Freakshow. Stroh said Michael David uses local and national designers, but all of the brand names are developed in-house. A more detailed story about this presentation will be published at winesandvines.com on Aug. 19.

James Stewart, president of Napa Valley’s Stewart Cellars, which was founded by his father Michael Stewart in 2000, worked with the design company CF Napa on an overhaul of the company’s second label, Slingshot.

Stewart was joined by David Schuemann, owner and creative director for CF Napa, and Steve Lamoureux, senior vice president of product innovation and design for The Nielsen Co. for a panel discussion about the best practices for package design.

Schuemann said wineries should expect designers to provide examples of their work with references as well as the figures that demonstrate a clear return on investment. He said that request for proposal is then followed by a creative brief, which forms the basis of the entire brand design and package. The brief can then be referred to later in the creative process.

For Slingshot, the result was a distinctive label that employs a large bullseye with a “bullet” hole slightly off center, which also obscures the vintage date.

The label jumps off the shelf, and Stewart said the bullet hole typically triggers consumers to stop, pull the bottle off the shelf and run their fingers over it. He said just getting a bottle off the shelf and into consumers’ hands is a huge advantage in the cluttered market.

Schuemann said he doesn’t understand why wine companies don’t invest more money in label design, especially when one considers the recent $285 million acquisition of The Prisoner brand by Constellation. The deal didn’t include a winery or vineyards and was essentially as Schuemann put it “millions and millions for label design.”

This year’s conference included an expanded design contest that drew 86 entries from wineries and 35 from packaging suppliers.

All of the entries were judged by a select panel of experts, and the top entries then were judged by attendees at conference for people’s choice honors.

The winners included:

• People's Choice Most Outstanding Package, as chosen by ballots cast by conference attendees: A 2009 Pinot Noir from Wooden Bottle Wine Co.

• People's Choice Most Innovative Package, as chosen by ballots cast by conference attendees: One87 Wine & Cocktails for its new single-serve 187ml wine packaging.

• Most Outstanding Package, by a supplier and as chosen by a jury panel: Design firm Stranger & Stranger for Run Riot Pinot Noir.

• Most Innovative Package, by a supplier and as chosen by a jury panel: Quest Industries of Stockton, Calif., for its “masked spray” on a bottle of 2011 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon from Reed Wine Cellars.

• Most Outstanding Package, submitted by a winery and chosen by a jury panel: Rubin Wines for its brand Q&A, which was designed by CF Napa.


Currently no comments posted for this article.