Ten years ago, the prospect of putting wine in a can was little more than an unthinkable, undrinkable one. So how did canned wine come to be a mainstay on our supermarket shelves? And as of this month, replace the majority of mini wine bottles in Waitrose? Henry Connell, co-founder of canned wine company The Uncommon offers his take.
Across the pond, Americans have been embracing the can as a vessel for wine since the early noughties, but over here the stigma attached to cans was (and still is) hard to shake.
When we canned our first English wine in 2018, we were laughed out of many rooms: “It’s pretty, but our premium customers won’t drink wine out of a can,” we were told. Slowly but surely, we’ve witnessed first-hand the shift in consumer perception and the market evolve, driven primarily by three factors:
The first is quality. Improvements in can technology swiftly corrected that ‘tinny taste’ and opened a world of possibility. Suddenly, with the right balance and expertise, excellent wine could not only survive but thrive in the aluminium can.
The second, thanks in part to the David Attenborough effect, is an increased awareness of sustainability. With more attention placed on our carbon footprint, it’s no wonder that the can – which is lighter to transport, faster to chill, easier to store and endlessly recyclable – trumps the heavy and fragile glass bottle. The can has a significantly lower carbon footprint and helps reduce carbon emissions by 79% vs the traditional glass bottle. As a result, retailers – such as Waitrose – are increasingly adopting the format to meet their own sustainability targets.
The third factor is changing lifestyles and consumer habits. The single serve can quite simply fits into our daily lives. It goes where no glass bottle has (successfully) gone before – al fresco gatherings, picnics in the park, beach strolls, the 17:55 train from Waterloo etc. and appeals to the younger more mobile consumer of wine. A demographic the global wine trade is desperately trying to attract.
The smaller format also acts as an entry point for wine newcomers, facilitating exploration.
There’s still a long way to go. We’re not flooding every British fridge and there are some traditionalists that will never believe great wine should come in cans. Granted, there are also occasions where the bottle will always reign supreme. I can’t see the pfft of a can replacing the pop of a cork at celebrations any time soon.
But as we’ve already witnessed with the craft beer, soda, and cocktail movement, the shift is happening. For some reason, wine still clings to unnecessary tradition.
We must continue to challenge dated pre-conceptions by convincing people of the quality. This usually only takes a sip.
People once scoffed at screw caps and raised eyebrows at English winemakers. It only takes a little imagination and a few brave people to break tradition for the better.