In a sector as traditional as wine, certain elements have been around since the very beginning – the glass bottle, for example.
Heavy or lightweight, with a screw cap or cork closure, in clear glass or shades of green, cinnamon, and more: these days, glass manufacturers offer us a wide array of options to give our wines a distinctive look. In recent decades, however, the wine industry has taken a greater interest in packaging innovations as a way of attracting a greater number of consumers, especially among younger generations like millennials.
Innovative packaging is essential in the wine industry. Wine producers are always searching for visually appealing vessels made of innocuous materials that protect the wine; receptacles that will attract customers while ensuring that the product is handled and transported safely during shipping. With this in mind, the wine industry is introducing a new format: the can.
The aluminium can not only represents an opportunity to transform the look of our wines, it is also associated with a great number of environmental advantages.
Aluminium is a non-ferromagnetic metal and the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
It is remarkably light and can be infinitely recycled without losing quality in the process. In contrast to other metals, 100% of the aluminium material can be reused.
This type of packaging has undergone significant improvements in recent decades, so much so that present-day aluminium cans only weigh between 12 and 13 grams. Such lightweight packaging means a reduction in transport and environmental costs because it releases less carbon per kilometre travelled.
The fact that aluminium is infinitely recyclable gives the element a high degree of circularity. It is unquestionably the most recycled packaging material in the world, at a rate of 65% in the US and 86% in countries like Spain. Recycling aluminium only requires 5% of the energy that is needed to produce cans from raw minerals. This translates into an enormous reduction in energy and raw material consumption.
Initiatives to promote the transition to renewable energy sources in the manufacture of aluminium cans (as Ball announced for all of North America in 2021) will reduce their carbon footprint by an additional 12 to 18%.
Is it true that canned wine is hard to find?
In countries like the US, wine in a can has shown staying power – far from a passing fad, this category has seen a growth of 62% over the past year. This increase has been primarily driven by wine consumers who are demanding more sustainable individually-sized packaging options.
The number of choices is on the rise and although the Covid-19 pandemic also affected canned wine production, this was compensated by an increase in can consumption in the direct to consumer (DTC) segment.
According to Heather Clauss of Free Flow Wines, canned wines have attracted new consumers, including those who traditionally felt intimidated by “wine culture”. The wines sold in cans are known for being flavourful, fresh, and more accessible in style.
At the same time, the consumption of canned wine is bringing additional momentum to discussions about sustainability, as well as educating companies and consumers about simple changes that can be implemented to help the environment and tackle the on-going problem of waste generation.
In light of the many possibilities this format offers, the wine industry is starting to see the can as a real alternative for easy-drinking wines. More efficient in terms of sustainability, the can also have the potential of reducing excessive consumption, because its smaller size (compared to a 75 cl bottle) could help consumers moderate their alcohol intake.
According to Wine Intelligence, canned wine products provide winemakers with an opportunity to think beyond the classic alcohol level of 11–13% ABV. By taking wine as a base and combining it with other mixers, producers can obtain a drink that is only 5% ABV, lower in calories and alcohol, with a flavour and format that set it apart from a standard wine.
Marta Juega, PhD