Glass bottles have been the wine packaging standard for hundreds of years, but they are being replaced by more eco-friendly and economical alternatives.  These boxes and cans give you delicious wines that stay fresh, have smaller carbon footprints, and bring great value for your money.

With the warm weather fast approaching and all the outdoor activities that go along with being in the sunshine … sometimes a bottle of wine just doesn’t work.  Luckily for us, wine producers are thinking beyond the bottle and offering unique packaging that works for practically every place we want to go .. whether it’s a few rounds on the golf course, a backyard BBQ, kayak on the lake or a hike, you can still enjoy your favorite wine.


During the summer, we will be sharing with you some of our alternative packages.

Join Stuart on New England Cooks


Move over glass bottles, there’s a new trend in wine consumption. Donald MacDonald with Farrell Distributing,  shows Brittney Hibbs the new ways to drink wine.

Single Serve Cans

Single-serve containers are the ultimate in casual wines. Pop the top of a Sophia sparkling wine at the beach or a barbeque and you might not think about their environmental impact. But these single-serve containers are made of recycled material, and are 100% recyclable—there’s no separate cork or screw cap that might end up in a landfill like with regular wine bottles. And once you put your aluminum can or plastic cup in a recycling bin, it takes about 60 days to go through the recycling circuit.


Bottom line: Convenient single-serving cans are easy to serve, and even easier to recycle.












Bag in the Box, or box wines, first made their way onto the wine scene in the 1960s. This type packaging is comprised of one or more layers of high-barrier flexible films known as the “bladder” which is nestled in a paperboard container which has a spigot for pouring.  “BiBs” come in several sizes: 1.5L, 3L and 5L. Examples are Bota Box and Franzia.

Tetra Pak

Tetra Paks look modern, but they have been in use since the 1940s as aseptic packages for milk. Their ability to seal out light and air makes them ideal for wine, and their lightweight, sturdy construction lets producers ship their wine with less packaging and more of the good stuff.

Bottom line: Tetra Pak wines are a great way to get high-quality wine in a highly ecological package!



Why would anyone want wine on draft?

The main benefit for consumers is freshness. In a standard wine-by-the glass program, restaurants often keep an opened bottle around for hours or days, increasing the threat of oxidation.

By taking the bottle out of the equation, you also eliminate concerns about bottle variation, bottle shock and faulty corks.

Kegs also cut down on waste and costs. Bottles, corks, cartons, labels and capsules can add up to $2 to $3 per bottle. Kegs are reusable, which is more environmentally friendly than glass recycling.

Breakage is not a concern, and kegs take up less space than cases of wine—a typical keg holds the equivalent of 26 bottles.

Streamlined Service – no corks to pull, not bottles to stock, inventory or recycle – Wine service just got a whole lot more efficient.

So the next time you’re out and ask “What’s on tap?” … don’t be surprised if you hear one of your favorite wine varietals!


The modern world of wine and spirits packaging is an ever-evolving and innovative arena designed first and foremost for function: storing and protecting the liquid inside of it. Secondly, and equally as important, the packaging must draw in new customers while retaining its current customer base. There are many different package options. Consumers connect with certain packaging based on environmental, lifestyle, generational, and historical reasons. Notably, we have seen some of the greatest changes to packaging in the last 50-60 years. The industry has moved from the traditional 750ml glass container to Bag-in-Box (BiB) and beyond. With technology pushing ever forward, we now see a much more advanced version of the BiB with a greater shelf life and with new packaging like Tetra, PET, and most recently, cans. While the 750ml glass bottle still owns the lion’s share of consumer purchases, the new packaging is bringing new consumers into the world of wine.

Firstly, in the following pages, I will describe the history of storage vessels for wine & spirits and its evolution. Next, I will discuss the new containers that have come to the market and what goes into creating them. Thirdly, I will review the advantages and the disadvantages of all current packaging of wine and spirits. Lastly, I will discuss where the future trends of packaging are appear to be heading and what that may mean to the level of sales in the marketplace.

The history of wine storage and dispensing vessels started over 3000 years ago in Egypt and moved into Roman times with vessels made of clay pottery called Amphorae. These vessels varied in size but were good for storing the wine. They could be sealed and, thereby, slowed oxidation and the consequent deterioration of the wine. Around this time, glass making was invented. However, glass was only used for serving and consuming wine. Glass was fragile, highly sought after and expensive.

The Romans helped spread the growth and use of glass as ornate pouring and drinking vessels. They expanded the knowledge of glass blowing throughout their empire. However, the main storage and transportation vessels in this era were wooden barrels as glass was still too fragile to travel.

This remained the case until the 17th century. A shortage in timber as a heating source for kilns forced people to turn to coal. With this change of fuel type, glass manufactures found that coal has a much higher combustion rate. This increased temperature led to the creation of a stronger glass. By the end of the 17th and early 18th century, wine was being stored and shipped in glass bottles. The glass shape also began to evolve away from the traditional balloon shaped bottle and to a newer cylindrical shape. This new design allowed the wine to be shipped more economically and due to the horizontal storage of the cylinders, it improved aging more successfully.  Thus, the advent of glass bottling also created one of the first marketing tools of wine production: a vintage date and better wine.

Glass, as a container for the storage, transportation and dispensing of wine, has a long and historic role in bringing wine and spirits to the public. While there have been many developments in glass, the basic product is made by heating and liquefying silica sand (also known as quartz sand). The natural green tinge that you find in many wine bottles is caused by iron impurities in the sand and it was discovered, fortuitously, protects the wine from sunlight damage.

Commercial production has led to many new techniques. These include the use of different additives to the silica for coloration and split mold technology of the bottles. These changes, among others, have created sturdier, clearer bottles that can then be mass-produced. For example, with the addition of manganese dioxide you can eliminate the green color or by adding sodium carbonate, you can increase manufacturing energy efficiency by cutting the melting temperature of the silica almost in half.  Another recent invention in glass production is referred to as “light-weighting”, which is basically reducing the thickness of the glass while maintaining the strength, thereby, lowering production and transportation costs.

By creating unique shapes and textures, producers are able to improve brand identification. For example, Peter Mertes and his BREE range of wines and Vodka have an upscale look by using a perfume bottle shape and silky textured surface. Mertes claims these are “particularly appealing to women, as they tend to impulsively pick up the bottle to take a closer look. The velvety finish feels pleasant to the touch and, this, in our experience, together with the unusual visual appeal, acts like a strong inducement to buy.”(2)

The second oldest modern container for wine is the BiB vessel. William Scholle created the bladder system in 1955 and Thomas Angove patented the first commercially boxed wine in 1965 with a polyethylene bladder surrounded by a protective cardboard box. Charles Malpas, who added a tap to the bladder system that sealed it and created a limited exposure to oxygen, further improved this system. It was also easier for the consumer to use. The bladder system comes in 2 forms, either with aluminum coated polyester sealed between high density polyethylene or the bag is clear and has polyvinyl alcohol as the barrier between the two layers of polyethylene. A strong cardboard exterior then protects the bladder.

Another container that has been used for several decades in spirit sales and now increasingly with wine, is the PET container. PET is available in multiple sizes from to single serve 50ml & 187ml, to 250ml, 500ml, 750ml, 1 L, and many others. It is durable, lightweight, and is very easy to shape. For a wine and spirit container, it is very adaptive and lowers costs at all levels of the business. PET, combining ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, makes polyethylene terephthalate. Much like BiB, PET is produced through 3 or 5 layers of material such as PET- Barrier-PET. There are many Barrier compounds used like ethylene-vinyl alcohol similar to the BiB clear bags. Another aspect of PET is it can resemble an actual bottle but is lightweight, durable, and mostly recyclable. Bodega Matarromera just completed another innovation, which uses bio plastic PLA or polylactic acid. This is made from corn or dextrose and is coated with silicon dioxide as an oxygen barrier. Finally, the PLA package offers a sustainably produced and a 100% recyclable product.

Other containers that are starting to appear in the marketplace are Tetra packages, kegs (both stainless steel and PET), and most recently, cans. Tetra containers, much like PET, come in many sizes but the most popular are currently the 250ml, 500ml and 1 L. Tetra is made from paper with aluminum coated polyester interior to protect against oxygenation and leakage. This is a very lightweight, renewably sourced, recyclable and somewhat durable container. Kegs are relatively new to the scene of wine containers, although, the idea is an old one.  In 2009, Jordan Kivelstadt, launched “Free Flow Wines” that kegs different wines for the direct purpose of restaurant BTG programs. These kegs are the standard 20L stainless beer logs but with slightly different fittings and draw systems.  There are also now single use PET kegs that are starting to be the lead form of Keg wines. Kegs have a smaller carbon footprint than bottles. They are durable, good at protecting against oxygen and light damage, and can also be pressurized to pour sparkling wine. Canned wines, like Sofia sparkling, have been around for a while, but have recently taken on a new life as a still-wine container. The can is 100% aluminum, lightweight, durable, and recyclable. They are sold as individual cans, 4 packs, and six packs in 250ml, 375ml, and 500ml sizes.

Each different packaging has its own advantages and disadvantages.  These packages create a point of differentiation and a particular draw to the producer, the retailer, and the consumer. Many of these on factors fall into 3 categories: Environmental (carbon footprint & green movements), Economical, and Product Quality. For instance, the traditional glass package’s primary advantage is its proven track record for product protection. So, from a producer’s viewpoint, glass offers the ability to protect wine from oxygen and the consequent negative affects on quality, taste, aromatics and flavor. In addition, with modern changes to bottling through “light weighting” (reducing the amount of glass used by up to 30%) there are savings to the producer for transportation and they have reduced their carbon footprint. Retailers like the advantage of glass because it gives the product a longer shelf life and facilitates carrying a larger inventory with less risk of product loss. Shelves are built to fit this bottle design and, currently, account for 70% of all alcohol sales. This reinforces store inventory levels and mix. For the consumer, glass is preferred because the wine is perceived as higher quality and better tasting. It is therefore, a safer investment of their money.

From an environmental view, glass is 100% recyclable. Its impact, in a closed loop system on the earth and its landfills, is, therefore, negligible. However, some disadvantages range from an overall higher cost to manufacture, the increased expense of shipping, and the necessarily larger retail space. From a retailer perspective, breakage can also be a major factor along with the larger floor space needed to display the product.  From the environmental perspective, even though it is recyclable, the US has a very poor recycle rate and “In the UK, 68% of glass…were recycled or recovered” (3) …which still means that a great deal glass is ending up in landfills.

For PET its advantages to the producer are primarily economical. Production costs far less than glass and transportation cuts “the carbon cost…by more than 60%” (3)  (a 80% -90% reduction in package weight). Also, due to technological advances in production materials and oxygen-absorbing compounds, product quality protection, of up to a year, is achieved without any noticeable detrimental effects. Although there are still mixed opinions on the studies of this.

The benefit to retailers from PET is attained through its smaller footprint than glass and its unbreakability. Due to its lower pricing, it also creates the potential for an additional sale and or new customer. Also, due to its many different package sizes, it allows many options, like single serve “nips” to half-gallons of vodka. There are some disadvantages to PET to a producer in that it does not offer the shelf life and quality protection that glass does. It can show signs of deterioration after only one year. For a retailer, product presentation is an issue but is slowly being addressed through better store sets. Educating the public that good wine can be packaged in this form will build sales, develop growth, and improve the price point in this type wine container. For the consumer, there are relatively few disadvantages, as long as they have no plans for aging the wine!

Environmentally, while the product is 100% recyclable, there are issues and increased expenses to PET. The layering of the Polyethylene and barrier needs to be separated from one another before being fully recyclable. Also, if unrecyled, there are serious environmental issues caused by plastic in our landfills. It can pollute our water table and it never decomposes.

BiB wines are similar in advantages found with PET as they, too, are lightweight and create cost savings. For the retailer, this type of package is stackable and creates space savings. It has an increasing market share due to its growing us for packaging higher quality wines. The greatest advantage of this form of packaging to the consumer is that it offers convenience, accessibility, portability, and product freshness (up to six weeks after opening). In addition, it offers considerable cost savings, with average costs for BiB “20L of wine costs Euro 1.70…glass…costs around Euro 6.40” (2).

One disadvantage that can affect producers, retailers and consumers alike is the permeability of the bladders. BiB shows some deterioration of quality within 6 months and have a 1-year expiration date. Also, the box is susceptible to damage, punctured linings, or cracks in the lining that can speed up oxygenation. Environmentally, they are recyclable … however, not always at 100% and has the same sort of recycling issues as PET.

Tetra packages and cans share similar advantages to the producer and retailer as BiB. For consumers, it offers different lightweight package sizes. This gives greater choices, prices, and convenience. Customers’ lifestyles, whether it’s hiking or picnicking, traditional glass containers are not as safe. Cans have an increased perception of quality that has grown out the craft beer movement. Although, it is still too soon to tell how wine’s aging will be affected by being in a metal can. A downside to Tetra is that, like BiB, they have a shorter shelf life. As they do not have a bladder system, the product is more rapidly affected by oxygen. Both Tetra and cans are 100% recyclable, although, recycling rates are low in the US these new package forms could consequently just increase pollution.

Kegs offer the brewer savings in production. One keg is the equivalent to a little over 26- 750ml bottles. Costs for shipping both in weight and volume of wine are strong savings as one pallet of 750ml is 504L and since you can fit two pallets in the same footprint for transport it is 800L with a lower carbon footprint. For the restaurant retailer, kegs produce savings and profits. Kegs are being used for “By The Glass” programs, which in the traditional 750ml format, could cause anywhere from a 5%-10% product loss due to oxidation. Kegs stay fresh up to 3 months after being tapped. Their use also allows the restaurant to offer higher quality wines, per ounce, from kegs vs.750’s bottles. This improves margins while increasing customer satisfaction from product freshness, quality and from a greener more sustainable package.

A disadvantage for producer and retailer to the keg system is that the empty kegs need to be returned. This creates logistical issues as well as, additional expenses. While the “poly keg” does avoid this issue it does end up putting more plastic into our system. There is also added expense to installing these systems … new parts and a different gas than those used for draft beer.

As I have discussed, there are many ways to package wine and spirits and each with their own pros and cons. Ultimately, as the business grows and competition intensifies, it will be balanced by decreased costs, improved marketing and reduced manpower. It is pushing the hospitality industry to be more creative. Alternative packages like Tetra and Bag in Box, offer more communication room on the product to market and draw the customer into making a purchase.

While “the 750 ml glass bottles solidly holds 70% of the market” the “3 Liter Boxes and Tetra Packs posted strongest growth at 3.3%” (7) and have the fastest growth based on overall volume. Much of this driven by the by “convenience factor” which is highlighted in the Gallo survey below.


Sofia_Mini_4pack_6p.grid-6x2Notably, cans are the fastest growing “alternative” package with a rate “up 125%” (12) but has a much smaller base than the BiB and Tetra. It is growing in both the convenience factor but also that it “generally has the highest overall perception of (wine) quality based on the packaging” (14). It also has a lifestyle component that the Gallo survey highlights below.


Alternatively, PET offers more of a standard glass package look while offering its customers the most secure and modern platform in the alternative category. Industry statistics indicate that “90% of wine is meant to be consumed within one year” (5) and more often, is consumed the week of its purchase. Combine this with PET technology, growing environmental concerns, all single serve 187ml bottles in the Us being replaced by PET, and a millennial consumer base that is less rooted in traditional values. I see a strong opportunity for PET growth and that it could take the lead as the top alternative packaging method in the coming decades. In addition, Kegs on premise will continue to see growth as the public becomes more accepting of its higher quality and greener packaging.

I have worked for a US wholesaler for over 12 years and been involved in the hospitality/retail business for 14 years prior this. It has been fascinating to watch these trends develop and catch on. In fact, alternative packaging has hit the point that we as a company are now devoting the month of  May as a focus month for “Alternative Packages”. We hope to highlight all of our alternative packaging to help build internal sales and increase customer knowledge. With all that said, there is an old expression that “Cash is King” and in the world of wine, “Glass is Cash” and with the increasing trend of purchases and consumption of premium and super premium wines in glass, this becomes literally a “Cash Cow”.  Glass has, does, and will always dominate the world of wine packaging and sales. After all, good wine is not just a drink or product but a living, breathing expression of a moment and a place. To capture that moment and preserve it comes with same need for grandeur and elegance that it has since the 17th century era of glass. Just like the statistics show in the survey below “Wine Lovers choose Glass” so let’s pour from and then raise one to the future of wine and wine packaging!  – Donald MacDonald  – Farrell Distributing – Southern Wine Brand Manager