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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Crate Uplevels Sustainable Packaging with World’s First Label-Less Wines

Crate aims to shake up the industry — where most of the sustainability discussion is about the impact of plastic in packaging, but little acknowledgement that paper labels are also part of the problem.

Australian winemaker Fourth Wave Wine has taken sustainable packaging into new terroir with its launch of the first-ever label-less wine, Crate — designed by sustainable drinks branding specialists, Denomination.

Crate is a high-quality, barrel-matured wine produced from some of Australia's leading red wine regions with a truly sustainable footprint. The packaging design does away with unsustainable branding materials and optimizes the only necessary packaging components. All essential brand information can be found within the tiny space of the cap and is accessible via QR code.

“Fourth Wave Wines is constantly striving towards greater sustainability and, with the launch of Crate, is shining a light on alternatives to conventional packaging that use paper labels, an increasingly precious commodity,” says Nicholas Crampton, co-owner at Fourth Wave Wines. “We enlisted the team at Denomination because they always put sustainability at the heart of everything they do. What they have created is a design that allows the quality of the wine to shine, while stripping away unnecessary waste from the packaging. There’s no label printing, no adhesives, no paper usage, and less energy used on the bottling line with the removal of the label component.”

Image credit: Crate

With its label-less design, Crate is on a mission to shake up the industry — where most of the sustainability discussion is about the impact of using plastic in packaging on the environment, but little acknowledgement that paper labels are also part of the problem.

Environmental concerns have led to a decrease in the use of plastic and an increase in paper-based packaging to compensate — which has led to increased pressure on forests. In addition, in order to apply a paper label to a bottle, a PET liner must be used — adding the use of crude oil to the mix. Crate does away with all this — proving the sustainable concept with its sleek, pared-back design.

Stripping it back

Denomination CEO and co-founder Rowena Curlewis says to do this, Denomination could only use the wine’s essential components: the bottle and the cap. “The challenge was finding the most energy-efficient choice. Printing on the bottle would have involved using incredibly high temperatures; so, we chose the cap — even though it meant being creative in a smaller space.”

The cap contains all mandatory information — brand logotype, varietal, region, vintage, legal claims, barcode, brand messaging and a QR code for further information — using the typography to give the illusion of space. The brand clearly lays out its position on the carton: “Our planet matters more than our packaging.” It informs the consumer that no label saves energy, no glue saves waste, no paper saves trees.

Leading the way

Denomination specializes in helping clients to develop more sustainable packaging solutions for their brands; in 2022, the agency itself was granted Climate Neutral Certified status. Working with some of the world’s leading packaging manufacturers and suppliers, Denomination sourced and developed a design with the most sustainable footprint possible. Crate uses transition glass — from bottles that would have otherwise been thrown away — and is lightweight, creating a lower carbon footprint. Alongside 100 percent recycled cartons with minimal print, the wines can only be bought by the case — further lowering the carbon footprint. The wine itself is made from small, boutique vineyards — reinvesting money into smallholder farmers’ pockets.

“This is a provocative and brave design for a brave brand. As we talk about sustainability, we need to take risks, move beyond the conventional and explore other ways of branding and messaging,” Curlewis says. “As both brand owners and consumers become more cognizant of the impact of increased paper use on our forests and the use of non-renewables to create plastic, the use of labels on wines and other drinks prompts an important question that the design industry will need to answer in order to protect all of our futures.”