Flavor-strip dispenser lets wine shoppers sample Beringer wines, sans alcohol

By Kate Bertrand Connolly in Beverage Packaging on April 10, 2015

Napa, Calif.-based Beringer Vineyards is thinking outside the bottle, so to speak, with a new in-store sampling program for its wines. Rather than using trial-size beverage packaging or a staffed tasting table, Beringer created a shelf-mounted merchandising fixture called the Taste Station.

The self-serve display dispenses flavor strips wrapped individually in flexible packaging. Each Taste Station holds a stack of the flat, rectangular foil pouches and dispenses them one at a time. Beringer currently is testing the concept in Kroger stores in 20 states.

Beringer’s flavor strips dissolve on the tongue, releasing the wine’s flavor. The strips contain no alcohol, so consumers feel comfortable trying a sample at any time of day. Flavor strips are available for the winemaker’s three most popular varietals: Chardonnay, White Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

To open the pouch and liberate the flavor strip, which is mounted on a thin piece of plastic, the consumer peels the package’s front and back panels apart. The Taste Station is designed with a slot on top, where consumers can dispose of empty pouches. News America Marketing is installing and managing the refillable Taste Stations on Beringer’s behalf.

The colors and graphics on the foil pouches resonate with those on the wines’ labels—yellow for Chardonnay, pink for White Zinfandel and purple for Cabernet Sauvignon.

“The [pouch] packaging was reverse printed flexographically using environmentally responsible water-based inks and adhesives with a high-barrier sealant that has excellent oxygen, moisture and aroma barrier,” says Elizabeth Hooker, director of public relations at Beringer brand owner Treasury Wine Estates.

The strips are packaged at Acupac Packaging Inc., Mahwah, NJ, using a “packaging machine that was designed and custom built for the Taste Station program,” Hooker adds. “It is similar to packaging used in the pharmaceutical and personal-care industries but [with] a specifically modified packaging line with customized tooling to allow for the product’s unique packaging.”

By providing an easy, unobtrusive way to try wines at the point of purchase, Beringer hopes to attract new consumers to the category. The 2014 Project Genome study, by Constellation Brands Inc., found that 19% of U.S. wine consumers fall into the Overwhelmed category—they find wine shopping overly complex and don’t enjoy the experience.

Beringer is hoping the low-key, help-yourself Taste Station will change that, taking the pressure off consumers and providing oenophilic education at the same time.

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