Think Outside the Box (Or Bottle)

Packaging is an interesting phenomenon. In every market, consumers hold specific ideas and expectations about what packaging should look like and how it should perform for any given product. For example, we expect pizza to be delivered in a cardboard box, and we expect sodas to be enclosed in a can or plastic bottle. This is the manner in which these products are typically served and we, as consumers, grow accustomed to that method of delivery. Anything else throws us off a little.

When packaging differs from the norm, we can get caught off guard. Sometimes, a unique product package can feel strange, but other times, alternative packaging can be extremely beneficial and interesting. It can even reinvigorate a category or open it up to new markets.

An article written by David Lynch uses wine as an example. The average American consumer anticipates or expects wine to be served in a glass bottle. Although we are increasingly seeing other types of packaging on the shelves, we still generally associate wine with a glass bottle. But is that really the best way to store and package the product? What happens to our perception when companies challenge the norm and think outside the glass bottle?

With the 4th of July just a few days away, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about what to pack in your cooler, bag, or picnic basket. Here are 3 alternative types of wine packaging that challenge our expectations and improve the experience – despite our stagnant perceptions:


Canned wine – interesting concept, right? Canned beverages drum up a different set of connotations. They usually signify a more casual, affordable, and portable beverage. In other words, they aren’t something we usually associate with the premium taste and experience of wine. However, utilizing canned packaging has its benefits. Not only does aluminum block light and oxygen from interacting with the wine, but it is also more recyclable and cheaper than a standard glass wine bottle. Plus, it won’t break in your bag on the train. What’s not to love?


Boxed wine has always been perceived as cheap. I remember my surprise when I visited my brother in Paris and he had a box of some of the best wine I had ever tasted just sitting on his counter. This was normal and expected. In the U.S., we’ve seen a recent popularity in the rise of boxed wine. In fact, boxed wine has actually elevated in popularity and perception over the past few years. If you aren’t familiar, boxed wine is contained in a plastic bag, which is then housed in a cardboard box with a spout for dispensing. Boxed wine is recyclable, lighter, more portable, and has an extremely long shelf life, as it stops oxygen from entering and degrading the wine. (I am definitely not a wine connoisseur or a Sommelier, so please forgive me if any of my wine terminology is off). Many people associate boxed wine with college students and young adults, however, that is simply no longer the case. High quality wines can be found in box packaging and we’ve seen a rise in marketing campaigns that aim to challenge people’s perceptions of boxed wine.

Tetra Pak

The Tetra Pak is probably the least conventional packaging choice on this list. Although it is quite popular in European markets, Tetra Pak wine is just getting a footing into U.S. markets. The cardboard material (similar in shape to a carton) is much cheaper and more recyclable than either packaging option mentioned above. This truly is the ecofriendly and budget-friendly option. But don’t assume you are getting low quality wine in a Tetra Pak – your money is actually buying higher quality grapes, not the packaging itself.

Going against packaging norms has its benefits when it comes to improving product taste, delivery, price and waste management/sustainability. The real challenge lies in changing consumer perception. David Lynch’s article mentioned a great quote that sums it up pretty accurately, “Wines are like people: It’s what’s inside that counts.”

How can we, as packaging professionals and designers, change packaging expectations to ultimately sell a better product, increase usage, and convenience? What other products or industries have these distinct “packaging expectations”? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!