The wine world - whether consumers or producers - is often characterised as traditional and conservative. But environmental concerns, rising transport and raw material costs and the need to cater for different lifestyle demands have prompted wine companies to embrace new packaging concepts. Catherine Mars of Euromonitor International takes a look at recent innovations.

The rising cost of glass, coupled with the growth in ethical consumerism and pressure to recycle more packaging, means that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and aluminium bottles could be the packaging format for the future in the wine industry.

PET bottles are designed to have the same aesthetic appeal as glass ones, with the advantage of being lighter and unbreakable. A number of launches suggest growing acceptance of the format, not least the introduction in Canada last year of a Wolf Blass wine in the world's first full-size PET bottle. French companies are also catching on to this trend with Burgundy wine firm Boisset Vins & Spiritueux using PET bottles for its Yellow Jersey wine, which it has tested in North America and plans to launch in Europe in early 2008.

Aluminium bottles are already used by both beer and soft drinks manufacturers, and this format has now been carried over to wine, with JMB Beverages the first to launch an aluminium wine bottle. In early 2007, the company's new Brightlite range of wines was launched in Australia. The bottles are fully recyclable, shatterproof and lightweight, with a modified screw-cap that is claimed to prevent cork taint.

Aluminium bottles offer a striking alternative to glass and PET, and have the additional benefits of quick chilling and easy recycling. Used for impact on one brand or for a limited edition, an aluminium bottle could prove a compelling unique selling point. However, Euromonitor International expects at least in the medium term that wine consumers will favour PET bottles as they more closely resemble traditional glass bottles.

New bottles aside, another packaging format seeing discernible growth is the bag-in-box (BiB). While BiB already has a high penetration in countries such as Australia, South Africa, Sweden and Norway, it is currently seen as a volume growth driver in the mature Danish wine market.

Furthermore, BiB has now begun to take off in France, where traditionally conservative French consumers are beginning to see it as a practical format allowing wine to be stored for up to six weeks without spoiling, rather than simply as a downmarket option.

Euromonitor International has also noted the introduction of some variants to the BiB format, such as the pouch (bag without box) and carton (box without bag). Like BiB, the wine carton has been around for some years and is particularly popular in Italy, Chile and Argentina, but the wine quality and price are usually relatively low. But as the market becomes more accustomed to packaging variations, liquid cartons and pouches are expected to become more commonplace.

Recent examples of companies using these new formats include Mont Tauch, a co-op based in the Languedoc region of southern France, which launched a prism-shaped carton for its Village du Sud range of Vins de Pays d'Oc in the UK last month, and South African brand Versus, which is now being offered in easy-to-carry, self-supporting 250ml and 1.5-litre pouches.

In addition to being re-sealable, BiBs, pouches and cartons also offer the benefit of being ideal for consumption outdoors. As such, these formats are expected to gain momentum in countries where wine is consumed regularly or even as a daily indulgence. With Scandinavia already leading the way, Euromonitor predicts that these formats could also fare well in the Netherlands, Ireland, and the UK, as per capita wine consumption grows.

Although partially driven by the rising cost of glass bottles, the introduction of new packaging formats can make wine more accessible to new consumers, extend drinking occasions, while also appealing to younger drinkers who might find the wine market rather daunting, one-person households and impulse purchasers.

With wine consumption declining in major markets such as France, the ability to attract new consumers is crucial to wine companies. Earlier this month, UK supermarket operator Asda launched a range of miniature wine taster bottles in a move to attract new consumers. The 250ml bottles are designed to help consumers make informed wine choices, with a reimbursement promise should the consumer decide to buy a full bottle.

In a bid to broaden drinking occasions, producers are considering opportunities in all channels. The 'shuttle' from Hardys is arguably the most inventive of recent packaging innovations. Developed for the Australian Cirque du Soleil show and launched in December 2006, the 'shuttle' is a single-serve (187ml) plastic bottle combined with a plastic wine glass/screw closure. While volume sales are likely to be relatively low, catering to convenience and situational drinking occasions, this striking concept is expected to help build awareness of the Hardys brand.

Bordeaux producer Cordier has also taken up the single-serve format, this time targeting impulse purchasers and outdoor drinking occasions. The company has launched a high-end wine in an 8.5-ounce Tetra Pak carton that comes with a special straw with four holes designed to spray wine into the mouth, which Cordier claims gives a similar sensation to drinking from a glass. Aimed at younger consumers, the red, white and rosé versions come in shiny red, green and pink boxes and are being tested in Belgium, ahead of a rollout in France and possibly the UK.

Although more conservative consumers will take some convincing, Euromonitor International believes such packaging innovations are exactly what is needed to inject some new life into the wine sector and attract new consumers. A recent study by the UK's Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) found that 37% of wine consumers are prepared to consider alternatives to wine in glass bottles, with PET and bag-in-box having the most consumer support.