The Cost of High-End Wine Packaging

What often starts out as a simple question, begging an equally simple answer, turns out to be complicated. Here is the simple question: What does the packaging cost for a bottle of wine? For sake of this discussion, packaging is defined as the wine bottle, cork, capsule/foil, labels (front and back) and the bottle filled. As in most manufacturing processes, costs are directly related to volume; the more you produce in a single run the cheaper the final cost. But, what follows is, “the devil’s in the detail” answer to a simple question.

Having spent many years in marketing I realize the intrinsic value of outstanding packaging. It would be foolish to disregard the powerful pull nice packaging has on the final decision to buy. Even “nice wine packaging” design has a set of ground rules that are driven by price points and industry norms. The point I want to make–a nice wine label design would not work well relative to say an Auto Zone product packaging design.

Overall, this review of packaging cost for wine has the following assumptions: a boutique winery with a run of 500 cases and not them owning the bottling equipment. The bottle size is 750 ml. It is also assumed the venture logo design objective of the wine is to be positioned squarely in the high-end market.

Next time you are buying wine look at all the shapes, colors, sizes, lengths, designs in the glass, and bottles with different shaped bottoms. There are more than 50 wine bottle options available to a winemaker (based upon our assumption parameters). In the full range of types of wine and sizes of available packaging the total is more than 100 options relative to size.

Historically, shapes define a white wine and red wine and a desert wine bottle. Within these categories the shapes get more consideration in height and diameter (the bottle and the inside neck diameter). Shapes also impact the bottling process when the labels are applied. Further, the bottle selection has a bearing on the label design, where bottle shape dictates design dimensions. Most 750 ml bottles are about 11-12 inches high; the diameters generally are about 3-3.5 inches, so size does matter.

Colors of wine bottles fall into 4 general categories: antique, champagne green, flint (clear), and dead leaf green. Of course each manufacture has their own colors but these four generally seem to be basic breakdowns. Whites are mostly packaged in the flint color.

High quality wine bottles come primarily from France and Italy. It is from Europe that you find the heavier bottles with thicker walls. A case of these bottles weigh approximately 22 lbs. The cost per bottle for a premium 750 ml bottle from Italy can be more than $3.50 per bottle. The bottle price assumes a punted bottle although there are options in addition to the punt bottom including, flat and mini-punt.

There are other options should $3.50 per bottle (or even higher) be too expensive. A domestic glass wine bottle producer will sell a case of bottles for $8-11 per case or by going to China a case of bottles could cost $6 if purchased in sufficient quantity. Most bottle companies in the U.S. that sell inexpensive China manufactured bottles ($0.60 each) have their own quality assurance people in the plants to oversee everything from raw materials used in the glass to manufacturing.

Bottom-line, a high quality heavy weight 750 ml wine bottle with a full punt will cost about $3.50 to $4.00 and it comes from Italy.

Outside of the creative aspects of making the wine, the next effort in packaging is designing a label for a specific bottle. Herein lays the most difficult packaging decision. Do you judge quality based upon past results, training and experiences of a wine label designer or buy design services based upon price? Of course there are mid points between these extremes. In any event you will need a good designer.

Some commercial label design firms will do a label design for $5,000. A few years ago it was not uncommon to see a very high end label design in which the winery paid $40,000 or more. Like bottles, there are myriad options for a quality design. More on that subject later. But like most things in life, a person can minimize costs and aggravation if good planning precedes the actual start of a design project. Good planning is defined as committing to paper the objectives of the wine venture logo design, competition, image a winemaker wants to project and provide any research results.

Some of the issues a designer will grapple with include, but not limited to: font, colors, shape of the label (the bottle will dictate some of the shape issues), metallic ink/foil, varietal of the wine itself, competitive labels, paper color and texture, types of ink, UV coating and durability requirements of the label. What most people do not think about is that a white wine is subjected to water and ice in a bucket. Therefore, a good design must take into account the ancillary issue of water.

After the design is done and the label is approved by the Tax and Trade Bureau it is ready for the printers. Here again, experience pays. A good printer will ensure the label and adhesive compliments the design when applied to the bottle. Experiences with foils, inks, embossing and application of labels are very important issues for a winery. The printing of two very high quality labels per bottle can cost $7.00 to $15.00 per bottle (in our assumed quantities) which includes special die tooling for cuts.

The finest hand-selected cork, with an imprinted startup logo on the top and around the side will cost $1.50 per cork. Of course you can buy corks for as little at $0.25, but that is not the quality we are proposing for this proposed high quality wine venture logo design. The tin capsule/foil with embossed and printed startup logo will cost $0.70 each. Again, you as a winemaker could save some money and opt for an imprinted polylaminate capsule and that would cost about $0.22 each. With cork and tin capsules one should assume $2.10 for both products. Now the bottle needs to be filled, corked, labeled and boxed.

This proposed high-end boutique winery is about ready to call the mobile packaging/fill vendor. But, before they can give you a price you need to tell then the following bits of information to get a price.

  • How many gallons will you be bottling?
  • What is the planned date for the packaging?
  • What is the varietal and therefore how much filtering is going to be required?
  • Are you using cork versus screw cap?
  • What is the specification of the label to be applying? (Printer will supply that information.)
  • Are all supplies on hand and ready for the filling operation?
  • Sanitized bottles?

With everything in place a winemaker could be looking at a cost of approximately $1.67 per bottle to fill 500 cases worth of you fine wine.

So, now we are ready to estimate the final, all inclusive, not to exceed cost to package the finest boutique wine from Napa? The cost could be $15 to $20 per bottle for packaging. Add one-time design services of $5,000 to as much as $40,000.

Remember, packaging really sells the first bottle, and then product quality must support the image the winemaker created with his/her packaging. People do appreciate quality.

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