Making the case for wine in pouches

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LiDestri Cocktails LiDestri Cocktails uses AstraPouch for its adult beverages.

MIAMI — The pouch isn’t going to replace the iconic glass wine bottle anytime soon. But that’s OK, because there’s room at the table, at the bar and at the winery for both, according to one man who is keenly focused on promoting the pouch.

Dave Moynihan is president of AstraPouch, a Penfield, N.Y.-based company that makes its money by turning winemakers onto the advantage of using flexible packaging for their products.

Glass bottles, when it comes to wine, are the dominate packaging. That’s just the way it is, he said. They’ve had quite a head start.

Glass has been around for millennia, plastic not so much.

But that doesn’t mean that pouched wine can’t find a nice niche in what is really a massive industry.

“People say, ‘Hey, how do you sell against glass?’” Moynihan said at the recent Global Pouch Forum in Miami. “Well, you really don’t. You are crazy to sell against glass.

Jim Johnson Moynihan

“I think there’s enough consumer take away out there to suggest that that thing [the 750 milliliter glass wine bottle] is going to stay around for a while,” he said. “So what you have to do is really talk about what the pouch can do for the customer.”

Pouched wines can provide a differentiated package for wineries, especially smaller ones that can use the packaging to not only avoid spoilage but also to attract younger customers who are more comfortable with the packaging.

Millennials are much more open to drinking wine that comes from pouches compared with the older Baby Boomer generation, Moynihan said. Millennials are about four times more likely, 67 percent, than boomers, 16 percent, to drink their wine from pouches.

Millennials grew up with and understand pouches. “There’s significant statistical data that says that that package is for them,” Moynihan said.  “They went to grammar school and sat down at the lunch table opened up the lunch pail and pulled out Capri Sun. We’ve got this group that’s moving up.”

And with U.S. millennials being the fastest growing wine drinking group in the world, that’s a good sign for the future of the wine pouch, Moynihan said.

Moynihan has been enjoying wine for a long time and remembers when folks were skeptical about the idea of drinking wine out of a cardboard box. “Well, it’s a huge part of the wine industry today,” he said. And that gives him hope for pouches.

Unlike bottles, pouches will keep their wine fresh longer because air does not become trapped inside the package.

This can be an important consideration for smaller wineries, especially ones that are only open on the weekends. That’s because they might end up having to discard partially opened bottles of wine because they will not be fresh enough to serve once they reopen several days later, said wine maker Nancy Evans.

Pouches cannot only serve to keep wine fresher longer, but also provide great advertising for the business.

Pouring wine from a pouch also gives winery employees the opportunity to talk to customers about the benefits of the packaging, said Evans, who works as a consultant at AstraPouch and is working to open her own winery in Crystal Beach, N.Y. “It affords me an opportunity to have a conversation with you,” she said.

Flexible packaging also lends itself to a more active lifestyle that allows folks to carry wine with them on the go without worrying about bottle breakage, Evans said.

Jim Johnson Evans

Wine pouches still face a challenge as far as costs compared with glass bottles, but Moynihan said he sees a time where that could change.

“I think eventually, theoretically, a pouch could be lower than the cost of glass. But you’re going to have some volume behind that,” he said.

Wine consumption trends are higher during the past 20 years in the United States, which is now the largest wine consuming country in the world. And Americans are expected to continue drinking more and more wine during the next decade, Moynihan said.

Some 89 percent of all wine is served in glass bottles, mostly in the 750 milliliter size, but also to a smaller extent the 1.5 liter container.

“You can see a lot of glass bottles are out there,” he said. “When we take a look at soft packaging, most of it in wine is bag-in-box. Bag-in-the-box is doing great.”

He estimates sales in that category, which includes a plastic bag in a paper box, at 9 percent.

Pouched wine, Moynihan estimated, has no more than a tenth a percent of the market. But he sees a brighter future. “I think the timing is right,” he said.