Premium boxed wines are smoking hot

Though bottles are still the most popular format for wine, premium wine in boxes is the fastest growing major format.

At the recent Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the wine business’s biggest annual trade show, Danny Brager of Nielsen research reported that Constellation Brands’ Black Box is #3 and Delicato Family Vineyards’ Bota Box #5 in year-to-year increases among wine brands.  He also said that boxes of all sizes represent close to 20 percent of wine volume.

Nielsen has also reported that Bota Box three-liter is the #15 overall wine brand in the US, and is the largest contributor to table wine growth.  The Bota Box brand is up by 28 percent, growing seven times as fast as the total table wine category.

Over the past five years, Bota has grown 139 percent, also an average of seven times faster than the Table Wine category.  CEO Chris Indelicato of Delicato Family Vineyards said the winery sold five million cases of Bota Box wines in 2016.

Each three-liter box contains the equivalent of four bottles of wine and lasts four weeks.  The boxes are also light, unbreakable and save money for packaging.

Launched in 2003, the Bota Box was created in the spirit of the traditional Spanish goatskin wine bag known as a “bota” used to carry wine for centuries.  The Bota bag gained global popularity in the 1960s and 1970s with hikers, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts and eco-conscious consumers who wanted to bring wine on adventures without the weight, waste and inconvenience of glass bottles.  It’s now become a standard for general consumption.

Of course, the overall boxed wine volume includes larger five-liter boxes such as The Wine Group’s Franzia and Gallo’s Peter Vella.

According to IRI data, which doesn’t include the whole market and varies from Nielsen, Franzia’ five-liter value box was the third largest brand with $337 million in sales in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 17 on 12.3 million cases but up only 1.1 percent.  It was beat in sales only by Gallo’s Barefoot bottles at $666 million, up three percent and Trinchero’s Sutter Home, also in bottles at $366 million, up 2.8 percent.

But premium three-liter boxes are growing much faster than five-liter boxes, and premium 750-ml and 1.5-liter cartons are also booming.

Black Box Wines sold $163 million in premium boxes, up 28.5 percent, and Bota Box sold $114 million up 28.1 percent.  Vendange premium box hit $84 million but up only 12.2 percent.

Those are average prices per 750-ml bottle equivalent of $5.02, (Black Box), $4.77 (Bota Box) and $5.58 (Vendange).

Meanwhile, the market for wines selling for less than $8 per bottle isn’t growing, but it’s still large-in-size:  Brager points out that 58 percent of the wine sold in glass sells for less than $8, though that represents just over one third of the dollars).  He also said that 28 percent of table wine volume is in 1.5-liter or larger glass bottles or jugs.

According to another research firm, IRI, total boxed wines sales for the 52 months ending Jan. 22 were $576 million, $278 million value and $299 premium.  However, the premium category grew at 24 percent while the value category slipped 1.9 percent.

Those represent four percent and 4.4 percent of the overall table wine market measured by IRI.  It valued the table wine market for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 22 at $6.8 billion.

Value wines are up 25.8 percent by dollars, while value boxes are down 2.8 percent.

The picture is even more dramatic for imported boxes, which represent a tiny amount of the market at present, with value boxes amounting to only $3 million in sales, down almost 20 percent over a year ago, compared to premium imported boxes with $6 million of sales up 24 percent.

Of course, some of the domestic brands use imported wine in some of their offerings, including Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and Malbec from Argentina for Black Box among current offerings.  In the past, Black Box has also included Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

A number of producers offer hot red blends in the boxes but the only true rosés (not white Zin) come from small imports.  The other fastest growing wine category is sparkling, but that’s not compatible with the bag in a box packaging.

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