For years, one of the most loathed word combinations in the long history of the grape was “boxed wine” — and for good reason.
By Stephanie Miskew
For decades, poor-quality wine, labeled simply as “white” or “red,” was relegated to these boxes and sold in supermarkets at bargain basement prices.
But things have changed in recent years.
Boxed wines, once the lowest level of the quality pyramid, are finally getting some respect. And they’re becoming increasingly popular among consumers.
Danny Brager, Nielsen Company’s senior vice president of beverage alcohol practice, confirmed their newfound popularity at the 2016 Wine Market Council. “While 750-ml glass bottles solidly hold 70 percent of the market,” he said, “3-liter boxes and Tetra paks posted the strongest growth. At 3.3 percent of the market share, 3-liter boxes grew 13.7 and 12.3 percent in value and volume, respectively, while Tetra (only 1 percent of the market) grew 21.9 and 21.8 percent.”
Boxed wine originated in Australia in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Penfolds, one of Australia’s oldest wineries, patented the plastic, air-tight tap attached to a bladder, which closely resembles today’s packaging.
This method was preferred for lesser-quality wines that didn’t warrant the cost of a bottle. But, ironically, sales of “value” boxed wines are stagnant now. The growth spurt is being driven primarily by “premium” wines.
“In the case of 3-liter boxes,” Brager said, “the category has increased sales by introducing new buyers, including premium wine buyers, accounting for 44 percent of the growth.”
Another reason consumers are gravitating toward boxed wines is that they’re friendlier to the environment. Though a standard 3-liter box holds the equivalent of four 750ml glass bottles, boxed wines have roughly half the carbon footprint of bottled wines. Also, most boxed wine packaging is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, making it much more desirable among environmentally aware wine drinkers.
For casual, everyday drinking and get-togethers, given the advantages in cost, convenience and environmental friendliness, there are compelling reasons to embrace the box, so the trend will most likely continue. But if you decide to tote a box of wine along to your next event, be prepared to offer a little wine education when you get there.