November 2013 Issue of Wines & Vines

New Wrinkles in Wine Packaging

The latest innovations in screwcaps, private labels and shipping containers

by Jane Firstenfeld
Our annual November survey offers hundreds of suppliers an opportunity to post news about their companies’ freshest products for the grape and wine industry. It also offers us a peek at developments we’ve not previously published.

We pored over almost 100 early submissions in the packaging segment, hand-picked some of the most intriguing, and sought out additional information for our readers.

Close it up
The closures category continues to be in transition. This year, two notable suppliers reported major advances in screwcap technology.

VinPerfect of Napa, Calif., added two more oxygen-regulating liners to its SmartCap line. The Medium Plus and Light liners “fulfill VinPerfect’s goal of creating a range of SmartCaps that provide winemakers the choice of three different oxygen-performance levels that best suit their wine styles,” according to CEO Tim Keller.

Keller detailed the liners’ capabilities: Light allows 0.08mg of oxygen transfer per year; Medium 0.16mg per year, and Medium Plus 0.37mg per year.

“Very roughly, the intended usage is to match the oxygen levels with wines in the way you see them presented: light-bodied wines for the Light liner, fuller bodied whites and medium-bodied reds with the Medium, and the Medium Plus for more robust wines,” Keller said.

Strictly speaking, “There are no rules of thumb that work for everyone. The wine’s overall exposure to oxygen throughout its life—as well as the oxygen pickup of the package on the bottling line—needs to be taken into account.

“All of our oxygen rates are several times lower than even the tightest synthetic cork. We offer very fine control over oxygen within a very narrow range. In our commercial trials with various wineries, the oxygen level is low enough that it mostly helps to develop the aromatics and mouthfeel, but there is not a huge impact in terms of lost free SO2, so shelf life is not compromised in a significant way,” he explained.

“Our liner is twice as expensive to make as Saranex, but the liner is such a small part of the cost of the overall cap that it doesn’t affect the cost in a noticeable way. That said, the price varies depending on desired decoration and volume—from under $100 per thousand for large-volume orders of stock caps up to just under $200 per thousand for a single box of laser-engraved caps.

“We handle decoration two ways: For small orders, we carry 16 stock colors that we have on hand at all times, and that we can decorate with our proprietary laser-engraving process. The laser is a way to deliver very crisp, highly detailed graphics on the top of one of our stock-colored caps,” Keller said.

“This is a favorite of boutique producers who don’t order enough volume to meet the minimum order requirements of the other cap companies. Since there is no tooling involved in the process, and we have the caps on hand in our Napa facility, we can turn those jobs around in under a week most of the time.”

Slightly larger orders can command a wide spectrum of decor options such as custom colors, embossing, multi-colored printing on the top and sides and hot foil.

Amcor Flexibles of American Canyon, Calif., which provides the ubiquitous Stelvin screwcap, also added multiple liners with specific oxygen-transmission rates (OTR). With the four new liners, Amcor marketing coordinator Jenna Riggan said, “Amcor does not assume to give any recommendations regarding varietals. Our goal is simply to provide winemakers with reliable options that deliver consistent results from one bottle to the next.”

With technical specifications consistent with previous Stelvin closures, modifications aren’t needed for the bottling line. Without providing customer names, Riggan said, “We can say more than 80 of our customers are currently conducting trials using Stelvin Inside.”

Prices are “not significantly different from existing liners,” she said. “The costs of screwcaps are more driven by the level of decoration and quantities than the liners themselves. All of the films used in the new liners are produced by Amcor and are PVDC-free.”

Seal it and send it
Maverick Enterprises of Ukiah, Calif., is a longtime favorite source of North Coast wineries for capsules. Its latest innovations aim directly at the growing sparkling wine segment, which demands elegance as the finishing touch for high-end bubblies, which cost more time and money to make and package. A trim new capsule captured our interest.

The scalloped-edge sparkling wine capsule, according to marketing coordinator Shelby White, “can eliminate the need for a neck label.…It completes the look of the capsule and packaging without having to add an otherwise secondary feature.” This makes for one less step on the bottling line.

Also for sparkling wine capsules, Maverick added a “pebbling” feature for a new look and texture. Our designer sources frequently recommend adding tactile appeal to packages, and this provides an additional opportunity for a luxury, feel-good package.

Maverick also has added new sizes and top disk options to its wide array of stock capsules in various materials.

PakSource in Sacramento, Calif., recognized the increasing demand for shipping materials to wine club and other direct-to-consumer sales, and designed a special line of DTC shippers to meet that need.

WineShield is “designed to keep your wine safe in transit and present it in a way that shows you care about your product, your customers and the environment,” according to PakSource president Glenn McWilliams. “We offer 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 6-, 9- and 12-pack stock sizes and can custom print to help differentiate your brand. Magnum packaging is also available.” In 2013, PakSource introduced a stand-up 12-pack for easier wine club fulfillment.

Retail and online wine clubs are using WineShield. “More and more wineries are interested in branding/coordinating their DTC/wine club packaging with their labels. We can use their existing label/carton art and easily coordinate with their packaging,” McWilliams said. “Additional costs can vary from pennies per package to significantly more, depending on the complexity of the art and the quantity required.”

PakSource currently works with more than 100 wineries including Miner Family, Grgich Hills, Sea Smoke, Kosta Browne and Longboard.

Basic decisions: Start with design
All too many small winery operations start with a home-brewed brand and a homemade design, only to realize later on that the package doesn’t effectively sell their product.

Innovative Sourcing in Yakima, Wash., brings some 50 years of collective experience to wineries of any size, “specializing in wine bottles and packaging materials for wineries, tasting rooms and distribution to clubs.” Owner Fred Bader said that Innovative serves the Northwest region—primarily Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with some customers in Montana and Colorado.

The company’s goal is to provide complete, turnkey packaging service from brand concept through sourcing of materials, selling bottles, labels, screen-printing options, closures and shippers. “We recommend looks that we feel will sell,” Bader said.

“Most of our customers provide art to us; some allow us to work with our graphic artist to render ideas, utilizing our experience and creativity to create a complete package that will assist them in getting the coveted end cap at retail outlets,” Bader said. Orders range from less than a pallet to multiple truckloads.

“For orders as low as 1,000 cases of an individual bottle, we custom design and print cartons for the bottles to be shipped in and deliver a turnkey product to the wineries. Labels are contracted elsewhere; custom-printed and embossed capsules can be provided and designed as well,” he said. Costs vary with quantity, with surcharges for lower numbers or specialty paper for quality graphics or foil stamping.

While Innovative Sourcing concentrates on commercial brand packages, Noontime Labels in Delray Beach, Fla., focuses on the design and printing of personalized labels for the ever-growing custom market.

“Through our website you or your customers create custom labels using our pre-designed templates, using the online tools to personalize them,” owner David Noone said.

“We have hundreds of label designs to choose from to show off the true personality of your wine. You can personalize them further by uploading your own picture, or choose one of our Design Service packages and we’ll create a unique label design—or one that integrates into your existing packaging scheme,” Noone said.

“We provide low-volume, sheet-fed printing and design services for both hobbyists and commercial customers. The majority of my customers are home winemakers and brewers, but I have done design work for some who have gone commercial,” notably, Estey Family Vineyards of Plymouth, Calif. (500 cases annually). Grapegrower Maness Vineyards/Casi Cielo in Jamul, Calif., also has used the service.

Label prices vary by stock and quantity; design services are dependent on how many iterations and different directions the client requires. “You make wine, we make labels,” Noone said.

Artful bottles
Phoenix Packaging in Montreal, Quebec, has “extended the reach” of its exclusive line of ceramic bottles from Germany’s MKM. Greg Illson, vice president of operations, said, “We sell mostly in the United States. Some are small port projects, but by far our largest client is Caymus Wineries (Rutherford, Calif.) and its Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay.”

Although some users of ceramic bottles choose paper labels, “More often than not it is a silk screen,” Illson said. Ceramic bottles are made of recyclable, natural stoneware. Illson said pricing varies among projects but could be compared to custom glass bottles.

The weight is typically heavier than glass; although most clients opt for available stock colors, custom-colored bottles are another option. (Read about Mer Soleil winemaker Charlie Wagner II’s attempts to match the color of his cement fermentors in the May 2012 issue of Wines & Vines.)

Whether using glass or ceramic bottles, screen-printing is a decorative alternative to paper labels. Designers can utilize the entire surface of the bottle to brand it permanently. Stanpac of Smithville, Ontario, comes highly recommended by clients and suppliers of screen-printed bottles. The company will relocate its decorating facility during the first quarter of 2014.

The stand-alone 50,000-square-foot facility will be home for its new Kammann K15 CNC, a pre-treatment unit for enhanced adhesion, a decorating lehr (oven) along with warehousing, screen-making and administration areas, according to Murray Bain, vice president of marketing.

The addition of organic and UV printing to the existing ceramic and precious metal products will greatly expand the company’s capabilities and increase output, he added.

“Organic inks have evolved to a complete color palate and super durability. These inks are applied to bottles in a hot wax or paste form, then pass through a screen and then baked at a lower temperature of approximately 400°F,” he said.

“UV inks are similar to organic in color availability and brilliance. The ink is cured by an ultraviolet lamp immediately after application, and there is no need to bake the bottle to harden the ink.

Bain described new features in printing equipment:

Bottle/color registration: CNC technology makes it possible to use bottle seams (or any asymmetrical part of the bottle) to register artwork.

Five UV colors: This will allow Stanpac to print jobs in CMYK (process printing), making it possible to achieve near-photo-quality images.

Automatic pre-treatment provides strong durability with organic and UV inks, something that has previously been a challenge.

Automatic print inspection rejects any bottle outside a predetermined print specification.

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