Bag-in-box wines are especially handy when it comes to summer picnics and garden parties. They weigh less than glass bottles, don’t break and can be sealed at any time. Since the reform in the EU wine sector in August 2009, premium varietal wines may also be bottled in boxes. However, the BIB format has not yet been accepted on an international scale. Whilst Scandinavian countries embraced this special packaging from the start, the rest of the world is only now slowly giving it the recognition it deserves. The packaging does not just target millennials, who are equally open to other innovative packaging formats besides BIB, such as canned wines. The boxed wines are also popular among older wine aficionados and are welcome gifts at parties. Even wine connoisseurs admit that the boxed wines have a fully preserved taste. Bag-in-box wines cannot cork and strict food regulations exclude negative effects of the plastic on the taste of the wine or health of the consumers.
HOW DOES THE BAG-IN-BOX SYSTEM WORK?
In bag-in-box packaging, a plastic pouch filled with liquid is placed inside a stable, corrugated cardboard box. The pouch is in turn connected to a tap that is operated from outside the box and emits an amount of the beverage that is determined individually by the consumer. The pouches are generally made of composite foil materials such as polyethylene and aluminium. As they empty, they contract and thus prevent contact with oxygen. Conventional bag-in-boxes are square; however, cylindrical shapes are also available, known as bag-in-tubes. They are generally sold with a capacity between three and ten litres.
Bag-in-box wines may not have yet caught on in Germany, among other places, but their overall balance is not to blame: this beverage packaging is nothing but advantageous in every respect. The format is inexpensive to manufacture and ship, weighs little and is handy to store. In addition, it is recyclable and even reusable, and it keeps its content fresh for a long time, even when opened. The taste experience is said to be identical to bottled wines. However: The system does have one negative aspect. Even if the unopened wine is stored in a cellar for years, it will not mature any further. This makes the boxed wines ideally suited for immediate consumption, however, collectors had best revert to glass bottles for their favourite wines.
Bag-in-box wines—who benefits?
a) Manufacturers and online sales sites
Low logistics costs, easy to transport
Weight savings of almost 40 percent compared to conventional glass bottles
Manufacturing costs for packaging for 20 litres of wine: 1.70 euros instead of around 6.40 euros
Large print area for marketing purposes
b) Bulk purchasers
Ideal stacking capacity, saves space
Low purchasing and transportation costs
Capacities of up to 1,000 litres, also applies to oils and dressingsy
c) End consumers
Up to 40 percent less expensive than wine in glass bottles
Practical: no risk of breakage, can be opened without aids (corkscrews), resealable
Hygienic and convenient access to content
The pouch protects wines against light and oxygen: ensuring consistent wine quality
Once opened, boxes stay fresh for another four to six weeks
Offers for special cool boxes for up to three BIBs are available, powered via electric sockets or the cigarette lighter in cars
d) The environment
Low fuel consumption during transport, resulting in twenty times less CO₂ emissions compared to conventional glass bottles.
Recycling: Pouches belong in recycling, the cardboard belongs in paper waste
Upcycling options: Can be reused as bags for toiletries, coverings for hot-water bottles and pillows for camping holidays
International and online bag-in-box wines
The popularity of bag-in-box wines is distributed differently around the world. The global share of bag-in-box wines in world trade was only two percent in 2018. Broken down by volume, their share was four percent.
Especially in North America, the boxed wines are gaining in popularity. Here, sales increased by 8.5 percent in just one year. Almost every fifth litre of wine sold in the USA was packaged in boxes before 2015, usually in three litre boxes. With the equivalent of four to five US dollars per 750 millilitres, the boxed wines are almost half the price of bottles with the same content.
Online, BIB wine sales increased tremendously at Amazon UK as well. Between 2016 and 2017, the online retailer reported a growth in this segment of a staggering 212 percent.
Germany exports bag-in-box wines
Besides France, Italy, South Africa and Australia, Germany is currently one of the largest exporters of bag-in-box wines. However, German wine consumers are still sceptical when it comes to this handy and sustainable packaging format. As in South Africa, this wine category, also known as “bagged wine”, still bears the stigma of containing cheap wines.
Boxed wines: Advantageous price and sustainability
So whilst consumers in the USA and Great Britain are slow to jump on the BIB wine bandwagon, the wine boxeshave long been popular in Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. Today, more than 60 percent of wines sold in these countries is brought to market in two or three litre boxes. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not due to the many boating trips and picnics that call for lighter packaging than bottles. In truth, the Norwegian government favoured this packaging option as part of their sustainability strategy. In addition, it offers consumers an economical option. In Sweden, Norway and Finland, a bottle of wine costs the equivalent of twelve US dollars. In contrast, the same bottle costs less than nine US dollars in the USA.
Tax savings on BIB wines in Scandinavia
Since 1 January 2017, all vintage wines on the northern wine markets are subject to a packaging fee. Here, the weight of the packaging is decisive. If a 750 ml bottle exceeds a weight of 420 grams, it is taxed particularly heavily. By offering lower taxes for less packaging weight, the government aims to create incentives for sustainable packaging options such as bag-in-boxes.
The affordable alcohol brand Barefoot has currently brought a colourful series of easy-to-use BIB wines in six new flavours to market. The American company’s on-tap wines are currently being introduced by large retailers in the USA. Photo: Barefoot