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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Alternative Packaging Alliance Out to Reshape the Conversation Around Boxed Wine

The group — comprised of seven higher-end wine producers — is bringing a decidedly hip, modern update to a segment with a big perception issue.

Is boxed wine finally becoming cool? While a widely cited 2023 Circana report shows double-digit growth in the multi-liter category among wine drinkers, a report from payment services company Fintech shows more modest year-over-year growth — but any way you look at it, the boxed wine market is growing.

That growth is occurring in spite of boxed wine’s ongoing perception problem — thanks to a history of big-box producers churning out a lower-cost, lower-quality product. And until very recently, the idea that wine in boxes could be an environmentally viable alternative to traditional glass wasn’t even on the radar of most drinkers or wine sellers — but with recent shifts in consumer perceptions thanks to the rise of quality wine in kegs or even plastic bottles, there’s no time like the present for boxed wine to redefine itself.

Enter the just-launched Alternative Packaging Alliance (APA) — a consortium of seven higher-end boxed-wine producers hoping to leverage strength in numbers to change the conversation around the category. The group includes Juliet, Ami Ami, Really Good Boxed Wine, Giovese Family Wines, Nomadica, Communal Brands and Tablas Creek — all representing various geographies, qualities and price points within the multi-liter boxed category.

Image credit: Alternative Packaging Alliance/Alexa Bendek

As Communal Brands CEO Melissa Monti Saunders said at the APA's launch: "We believe packaging should be evaluated for its functionality and environmental credentials rather than as a quality metric," adds Melissa Monti Saunders, Founder Members of the APA and CEO of Communal Brands. "Why irrationally assume products packaged in alternatives to single-use glass must be lower caliber? We believe packaging alternatives to single-use glass symbolize an eco-conscious choice. When we are boasting about boxed wine in the same way we would bicycle-riding, we know our mission is having an impact."

According to Juliet co-founder Allison Luvera, the original idea for the Alliance came together during last year’s Climate Week NYC — when Monti Saunders proposed bringing together several higher-end boxed-wine producers to draw attention to the upper levels of the category.

“We saw it as an opportunity to work together on joint retail initiatives and overturn this negative perception against the format,” Luvera told Sustainable Brands® (SB).

Merely looking at the representation of brands shows that these aren’t your parents’ boxes of wine. Every producer has fun, approachable branding; and the juice inside shows at least some consideration for the environment — whether through a commitment to certain agricultural practices or low-intervention production methods. At the moment, the Alliance isn’t requiring a commitment to, say, Biodynamic or Organic; but Luvera says there must be a “commitment to a better wine product” within each brand as a point of principle.

Built around a main environmental message

One of the newest core messages around boxed wine is that it’s better for the environment, because it doesn’t require glass. Although there are wine companies experimenting with “the world’s lightest glass bottle” and others adopting reusable bottles — glass still requires a significant amount of energy to produce, regardless of its origin.

Boxed wine usually comes in a cardboard box with a plastic bag inside. (Some producers, such as Oregon’s Winters Hill uses Ecopack” packaging — which is just the bag without any cardboard, and doesn’t particularly qualify as “boxed wine.” Winemaker Russell Gladhart told SB the packaging does well in preserving quality and carries consumer advantages: It’s easy to carry or pack for a picnic, can be placed directly in a cooler or ice bucket, and can be recycled after use.)

For the Alliance, it’s taking advantage of the increased interest in alternative packaging to highlight the energy and emissions savings of going boxed. Monti Saunders cited a Nordic study that suggested boxed wine can have up to a 10x smaller carbon footprint compared to glass.

“It’s still the least impact and generates the least amount of waste,” she told SB.

Strength in numbers

Perhaps the group’s biggest potential is simply in working together. By joining forces, the Alliance can tackle on- and off-premise opportunities in a more efficient way, and get more drinkers to look at alternative packaging of all kinds while considering it on a level playing field.

“Once people embrace the format and give it a try, their minds change,” Monti Saunders asserted.

Moving forward, the group wants to broaden membership potentially outside boxes to embrace aluminum, bags and other formats for delivering wine without glass.

“Turning it into a trade advocacy group is along the lines of what we’re thinking,” Luvera said.