Tackling Eco-Concerns With Drinks Packaging

Stuart Pritchard July 22, 2019

ROB MALIN, Co-Founder & CEO of When in Rome, explains how his company deals with increasing environmental pressures surrounding packaging…

The wine industry, like many other industries, is beginning to take a long hard look at itself from the perspective of packaging and sustainability. We believe a wider adoption of ‘Bag-in-box’ (BIB) wines can make a healthy difference in the long term. No longer can us brand owners just carry on and say: “Well, if we haven’t anything to say about sustainability, we’ll just keep our mouths shut and hope no one asks!” I think wine brands now have to be far more accountable for future proofing themselves for a more sustainable future and should be ready to answer tough questions on the subject.

If we strip the industry back a bit, and look at who’s drinking wine, it is evident that wine drinking is no longer the reserve of the connoisseur. A recent polling commissioned by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) showed it is now the favoured alcoholic drink for 60% of UK adults, compared to all other alcohol products. This amounts to over 30 million regular wine consumers across the nation. So, wine companies are under pressure to install sustainable measures when it comes to packaging, because consumers quite rightly no longer let brands off the hook. We’ve noticed consumers being increasingly open to BIB format, with the likes of Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose highlighting a spike in sales in recent months.


The wine industry is beginning to take a long hard look at itself from the perspective of packaging

One of our major blockages has been convincing consumers with preconceived ideas that BIB wine can be premium, as in our case, but we are beginning to get traction with this message. As the UK’s first premium box wine brand, we were very careful to focus on presenting the When in Rome range in a design that would strike a balance – a very distinctive craft, artisan feel that could also hold tight to a premium look and finish. We wanted our packaging to appeal to consumers – especially millennials – but also reflect our values and the quality of our small producers’ wines. We used matt brown card with subtle colouring and a strong accent on provenance by telling each producer’s story as part of the design.

Though we only launched in 2016, the quality of our wines and packaging has been a success with consumers and retailers and a range of When in Rome bag-in-boxes is now available in Waitrose, Harvey Nichols, Ocado and independent wine merchants.

If we look at premium wine box brands in mature wine markets such as Bibovino in France and Black Box in the US, there’s an opportunity for When in Rome to grow its market share in the UK and oversea and achieve a similar success.


The UK’s first premium box wine brand

Consumers are growing concerned with environmental issues and are increasingly looking for practical alternatives to reduce waste. With an (almost) entirely recyclable packaging, BIB wine provides an ideal solution to reduce glass waste. At When in Rome, we offer a 100% recyclable box. All our inner bags are transparent and use EVOH & PE so can be placed in kerbside recycling boxes.

Alko, the Finnish beverage company, studied the environmental impact of different types of wine packaging and their carbon footprints. According to the study, the smallest climate impacts per litre of beverage were as follows:

  • Bag-in-box 70g CO2e/l
  • Carton 80g CO2e/l
  • Bag 96g CO2e/l
  • PET plastic bottle 245g CO2e/l
  • Lightweight glass bottle (under 420-grams) 525g CO2e/l
  • Traditional glass bottle (about 540-grams) 675g CO2e/l


Flying the flag for premium BIB wines

A weaker pound has also provided an opportunity to focus overtly on the economic advantages of shipping wine in bulk. We are currently taking part in the ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ concept as the store trials refillable wine at its Oxford Botley Road store, as part of a drive to cut down on packaging. Four wines will be available on tap and can be taken home in glass refillable bottles. When in Rome is the only wine brand available on tap, and one of only two alcohol brands available, the other is Toast beer. Wine and a glass bottle will cost £7.99, while a refill will cost £6.99. That compares to a 2.25L When in Rome bag-in-box (equivalent to three bottles) which costs £24.99, or £8.33 per bottle, so a refill would be 16% cheaper for an eco-friendly shopper. We are supplying the store with 10L recyclable BiBs direct from Italy, mostly by train to reduce the carbon footprint.

So, we shall continue using packaging as our main point of difference – flying the flag for premium BIB wines with our ‘Join the wine box revolution’ call to action #wineboxrevolution, and changing perceptions of consumers by proving that premium wine is just as good in BIB format.