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How to Launch a Wine Product Extension: Top Questions to Consider

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Jordan Kivelstadt is the Founder and CEO of Free Flow Wines. He founded Free Flow Wines with Dan Donahoe in 2009, and has been leading the growth of the business since the beginning. He has made wine in four countries, founded his own bottle brand, Kivelstadt Cellars, manages his family’s organic 10-acre Sonoma County, California vineyard and continues to innovate in the industry he loves.

The most valuable asset we have in the wine business is our brand. Its integrity, reputation and associations are what we strive to build and then leverage to grow. So, with the changing demographics of the people buying our products, and rising cost pressures, we are often posed with the question, “Should I explore an alternative package?”

This can be as simple as changing from cork to screw-caps, or as life altering as launching in Tetra. But if you think clearly about what your goals are before launching a new product, it will help you identify which is right for your brand and what the next steps ought to be.

First, let’s discuss the goals of an alternative package. They include:

  • Appealing to new audiences: Your current brand and packaging model may preclude (be it price, perception, or physical limitations) certain audiences. For example, glass is a challenge for the outdoorsy mid-twenties demographic. Aoft packages might be a more appealing choice.
  • Increasing profitability: In an ever-consolidating market, there is increased pressure on the bottom line, which means we all need to find new ways to compete. There is major value in choosing an alternative closure or package that reduces overall packaging costs and help you get to market more cost effectively.
  • Access to new sales channels: Your current package may limit the channels you can access (big box retail vs. independents). A new package definitely has the potential to open a new channel.
  • Reinforcing brand messaging: A bottle provides a limited area for branding (the label and capsule), so will an alternative package increase your branding options, allowing you to tell your story more convincingly?

There are a lot of packages to choose from: Kegs, Pouches, Cans, Tetrapaks – the list of options goes on and on. Each of these is different in its perception in the market, capabilities, and opportunities. What is important to remember is that 83% of Millennials (according to a recent study) trust and purchase a comparable product with a green message, so remember, “green” is important to consider when making a packaging decision.

As you look at the options and consider the goals outlined above, I recommend the following next steps:

  1. Talk to your customers and wholesalers: These are the people that buy your products. I’m not saying that they know everything, but getting their opinions can save you a lot of pain (and money!).
  2. Look at the options: Weigh the pros and cons of each package. Look at their positioning in the market and whether that aligns with your goals in launching an alternative package.
  3. Come up with a strong and cohesive go-to-market strategy: This is often overlooked as we launch a new product. Start with focused markets, and learn from the successes and failures in those markets before launching a product nationally.
  4. Find the right partners: The best way to launch a new package is to find the most excited distributors and retailers to launch with you. This may seem obvious, but if you can’t find a retail and distribution partner that is excited enough to launch the product with you, you may want to reconsider. Another key to remember, a short exclusive period really helps test a new product.

If you are interested in putting your product in kegs, please check out FreeFlowWines.com for more information. I’ll be presenting more thoughts on this and other topics at Wine Packaging Strategy: Decide, Design, Impress at UC Davis on June 4th. I’ll be participating on a panel with other forward thinking industry leaders to discuss cutting edge topics and debate where the industry is going to be going in the future. Register today, and I hope to see you there. 

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