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Posted on  | November 24, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Single-serve wines open up multiple opportunities

When the stars of CNBC’s hit television show Shark Tank see people sipping Copa Di Vino single-serve wine, they are probably left grumbling “sour grapes.” Copa Di Vino founder James Martin of Oregon is one of the few entrepreneurs to walk away from lucrative offers from the show’s wealthy investors—and not just once, but twice.

While they failed to make a deal, the show helped in launching single-serve wine into the spotlight. Since then, Copa Di Vino has gone on to partner with Anheuser-Busch for distribution, reaching 15,000 retail outlets and breaking 1.2 million unit sales in July, shortly after surpassing $25 million in lifetime revenue.

This bodes well not only for Copa Di Vino, but also for single-serve wine as an explosive growth category, with new technologies and competitors widening the field.


According to Jim Semlor, Director of Marketing for Copa Di Vino, the need for single-serve wine is an obvious one in hindsight. “You could get beer, coffee, soda, everything else in a single-serve portion, but wine was trapped in the bottle. It’s a larger purchase and so it came with the possibility to make a bad investment,” he says. While there have long been 187ml packages for Champagne, and Francis Ford Coppola Winery has enjoyed some success with Sofia Blanc de Blancs in a 187ml can, no single-serve previously succeeded on the scale of Copa Di Vino, now boasting a portfolio of seven wines that retail for about $2.99 per 187ml serving.

James Martin certainly did the category a favor by placing wine quality as one of his priorities. While the Copa wines carry no designation of origin, Stemlor says they are well received by wine drinkers: “There is a perception it will be cheap wine, but we hear over and over ‘Wow, this tastes great!’ With the quality and the branded glass, we are enjoying a brand loyalty factor that is more like beer than wine.”


In addition to eliminating waste from open bottles, all the single-serve newcomers pride themselves on the ability to go where traditional stemware isn’t appropriate, or even permitted. Think camping, poolside, festivals and arenas. “Vegas just banned glasses on the strip and we are huge there! Anywhere wine couldn’t go, we can go,” beams Stemlor.

J. Henry Scott, CEO of Zipz, conceived of his single-serve package when he wanted a glass of wine at a baseball game. In less than a year, he made that a reality. Scott’s vision for a high-quality PET plastic single-serve that looks and feels like traditional stemware began to appear at stadiums of the Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins and more. Today, Zipz is available in 22 states, appearing in arenas, Disney World and other high-profile venues.

“There is a special fascination with drinking wine out of a wine glass, and Zipz is the wine package that is most similar to the look and feel of a real wine glass,” says Don Asay, COO. Priced at $2.99 a glass, Zipz also places an emphasis on wine quality, enlisting Andrew McMurray, Vice President at Zachys Wine & Liquor, to consult on wines sourced from Lodi, Mendocino and other parts of California.


Nuvino, a new line of premium single-serve wine in a pouch sourced from vineyards around the world, is the brainchild of Jason Carignan, who observed people were using his Vapur anti-bottle—designed as a reusable water pouch—to tote wine. Now, with Nuvino from Miravante Brands LLC, the pouches come filled with 187 ml of some of the world’s most popular styles of wine: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, South African Chardonnay, Malbec from Mendoza and an Australian red blend.

 “Our package is even more mobile than plastic cups,” says Andrew Elkins, Manager, Nuvino & Project Development for Kretek International, a marketing partner. “After drinking, it breaks down flat and is about 66% lighter than a 187ml plastic PET bottle.” That’s a huge selling point for outdoor enthusiasts, airlines and stadiums trying to reduce weight and waste. With its four-layer construction, the contemporary looking Nuvino pouch boasts a shelf life of two years. And surprising toughness, according to Elkins: “You can throw it in your purse and not worry it will break or leak. I see the real advantage at festivals and stadiums, because you can toss it like a bag of peanuts.”


One of the greatest challenges for traditional retailers is how to display single-serve wines. Copa Di Vino offers racks designed specifically to utilize floor space that is otherwise wasted, and recently developed an autoloader system, resulting in a 51% increase in sales in one test store. Asay says that upscale grocers have chosen to display Zipz by usage occasion—near the prepared meals. “It’s a natural for the professional to grab their meal and a single glass of wine on the way home,” he says.

Stack Wine, which sells four vertically stacked 187ml single-serve cups with foil caps, is betting that their resemblance to a familiar format will help bridge the gap to selling single-serve. “We sit right next to the 750ml bottles and that opens up the single-serve category to a new set of eyeballs,” says Co-Founder Jodi Ryan. “It’s a familiar footprint for retailers, with premium quality California appellation wine, so we are trying to both expand and elevate the category,” she says.

Why divide a 750ml bottle into four servings at all? “If you think about prepackaged meals and frozen meals, they are pre-portioned. There is a similar benefit with wine, for those who don’t want to overpour or overconsume,” explains Ryan. And, of course, retailers are free to break Stacks apart for individual sale.

Fünf wines, named from the German for “5” and bottled in 187ml white PET bottles, are sold in four-packs, but are often broken down and mingled in large bins at big stores, according to Jim Lindsey, Director of Marketing for importer Schmitt Söhne Wines USA. With off-dry to sweet flavor profiles, shoppers are able to pick and choose from among the Riesling, Sweet Red, Moscato and Red and White Sangrias.


Still early in its launch, Fünf is available in 1,500 retail locations and, perhaps surprisingly, 250 restaurants, according to Lindsey, suggesting that there is a place for single-serve wines in the casual on-premise as well. Fünf holds potential for the casino that opens to an outdoor pool area, the local barbecue joint or casual dining chains where servers will breathe a sigh of relief at not having to pull corks “The small PET package is quick to chill and easy for everyone to deal with,” says Lindsey, noting the brand offers a branded ice-bucket designed specifically for on-premise promotions.

“We were really mistaken to think the on-premise was not going to embrace us,” says Copa Di Vino’s Semlor. “At the casual and mid-level restaurant, wine is seen as a necessary evil. With Copa you have no underpour or overpour, server time similar to a bottle of beer, no broken stemware and no loss,” says Semlor.

So, which way is the single-serve wind blowing? Don’t be surprised when more market-savvy sharks zero in on the category. Fresh into the arena: a just-launched brand called “XO, G” from fashion/beauty expert and TV personality Giuliana Rancic. The name derives from her signature sendoff, “XO, G,” which she regularly uses in social media posts. Tapping the same packaging as Stack, the clear outer sleeve is decorated in stylish white and silver Xs and Os, while a vibrant ribbon illustration adds a pop of color.  XO, G features a French Rosé, a French Pinot Noir and an Italian Pinot Grigio. A mixed pack of the two Pinots is also available. Each four-pack retails for $9.97, and the wine is already generating buzz on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 


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