WINETHROPOLOGYTUESDAY, JULY 21, 2020 Box Wine’s Tipping Point?

Last wee­k’s post on the Natu­ral Ori­gins Caber­net got me thin­king about pac­ka­ging and why this moment in time could be a tip­ping point for boxed wine.  The mar­ket­pla­ce is no stran­ger to boxed wine, even drin­ka­ble box wines.  Heck, the first box wine I revie­wed was just over a deca­de ago, though the current pan­de­mic could be acce­le­ra­ting what has been a slow matu­ra­tion pro­cess in the boxed wine cate­gory.
Why? (Hint: It has a lot to do with gro­cery sto­res.)
  1. Fewer Stops: Expo­su­re-cons­cious con­su­mers have redu­ced the num­ber of sto­re visits they make in any given week.  This has trans­la­ted to less traf­fic at small inde­pen­dent wine shops, espe­cially tho­se slow to reach out to their cus­to­mers with spe­ci­fic offers and curb­si­de pic­kup.
  2. Lar­ger Volume/Longer Shelf Life: If you’­ve seen the fro­zen vege­ta­ble sec­tion empty sin­ce the pan­de­mic began (as I often have), you’ll know that con­su­mers have ske­wed their buying pre­fe­ren­ces towards pro­ducts with a lon­ger shelf life — again to mini­mi­ze the fre­quency of trips.
  3. Gro­cery Selec­tions: Becau­se the­re’s no skip­ping gro­ce­ries, peo­ple are buying more non-gro­cery pro­ducts (like beer and wine) at the super­mar­ket whe­re wine sales have pic­ked up very sig­ni­fi­cantly.  In my local mar­ket gro­cery sto­re wine sales are up just shy of 40%.
  4. Qua­lity and Avai­la­bi­lity: Box wine is, almost exclu­si­vely, the domain of gro­cery sto­res.  But the options, like the Natu­ral Ori­gins, are expan­ding and impro­ving dra­ma­ti­cally.
  5. Social per­mis­sion: Just as hap­pe­ned during the great reces­sion, peo­ple are modest spen­ding.  Back in 2007–9 it beca­me uncool to be seen pop­ping open over­pri­ced bottles, crea­ting a social stig­ma asso­cia­ted with con­su­ming extra­va­gantly.  Something simi­lar is hap­pe­ning today, but with hardly anyo­ne enter­tai­ning or eating at res­tau­rants, the­re’s no one loo­king at what you’­re drin­king.

All of the­se fac­tors add up to what has got to be the most favo­ra­ble mar­ket con­di­tions for box wine ever.  Is it enough to reach a tip­ping point towards mains­tream accep­tan­ce? Only time will tell, but one dis­tri­bu­tor recently sha­red with me that the SKU with the lar­gest leap in gross dollar sales was a well-known pre­mium box wine, sales of which nearly TRI­PLED from a year ago.

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