COMMENT: Franklin Estates - it's in the can
Australia's Franklin Estates is preparing to release wine in cans to the US, UK and Japanese markets. While there are many practical benefits to the idea - no spoilage, no need for bottle-openers, no need to finish a bottle - its success depends on good weather, and consumers being prepared accept the unorthodox notion of wine in ring-pull cans.
In a move that can only offend the sensibilities of Old World wine producers, Franklin Estates is releasing ring-pull wine. The launch has been timed for summer in the hope of attracting picnicking consumers.
There are many sound practical reasons for providing wine in cans, especially for outdoor or on the move occasions. There is no corkscrew to forget, no need to choose between consuming a whole bottle or leaving one unfinished, no need to provide glasses, and fewer troubles with packing and disposal. For active wine-lovers, particularly those indulging in impromptu outdoor drinking, a can seems like a sensible solution.
However, the issue is not entirely a practical one. Cans have an image problem - they are associated with beer and lager, and the natural and predictable response of many wine-drinkers will be an emotional one - a gut instinct that good wine cannot come out of a can.
Franklin has spent a considerable amount of time developing specially lined cans that will keep the wine at drinking quality for three years. In addition, the first two wines will be an entirely respectable 2002 Chardonnay and 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz. Nevertheless, the emotional barrier for most wine-drinkers will be high.
However, there are opportunities. As well as targeting younger, less traditional consumers, Franklin Estates is also hoping to entice the catering trade, particularly those handling outdoor, sports and leisure events, as well as transport catering and cafes. Restaurants who regularly have to dispose of half-finished bottles are also, apparently, attracted to the idea.
With good marketing and an understanding of the core consumer, Franklin Estates may be able to carve out a niche for wine in cans. But the major barrier is simply an instinctive negative reaction to the concept of wine in cans. As with cardboard cartons and plastic bottles, the perception, based solely on the packaging, may be that the wine is bound to be of poor quality.
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