Box Wine's Tipping Point?

Last week's post on the Natural Origins Cabernet got me thinking about packaging and why this moment in time could be a tipping point for boxed wine.  The marketplace is no stranger to boxed wine, even drinkable box wines.  Heck, the first box wine I reviewed was just over a decade ago, though the current pandemic could be accelerating what has been a slow maturation process in the boxed wine category.

Why? (Hint: It has a lot to do with grocery stores.)
  1. Fewer Stops: Exposure-conscious consumers have reduced the number of store visits they make in any given week.  This has translated to less traffic at small independent wine shops, especially those slow to reach out to their customers with specific offers and curbside pickup. 
  2. Larger Volume/Longer Shelf Life: If you've seen the frozen vegetable section empty since the pandemic began (as I often have), you'll know that consumers have skewed their buying preferences towards products with a longer shelf life - again to minimize the frequency of trips. 
  3. Grocery Selections: Because there's no skipping groceries, people are buying more non-grocery products (like beer and wine) at the supermarket where wine sales have picked up very significantly.  In my local market grocery store wine sales are up just shy of 40%.
  4. Quality and Availability: Box wine is, almost exclusively, the domain of grocery stores.  But the options, like the Natural Origins, are expanding and improving dramatically.
  5. Social permission: Just as happened during the great recession, people are modest spending.  Back in 2007-9 it became uncool to be seen popping open overpriced bottles, creating a social stigma associated with consuming extravagantly.  Something similar is happening today, but with hardly anyone entertaining or eating at restaurants, there's no one looking at what you're drinking.
All of these factors add up to what has got to be the most favorable market conditions for box wine ever.  Is it enough to reach a tipping point towards mainstream acceptance? Only time will tell, but one distributor recently shared with me that the SKU with the largest leap in gross dollar sales was a well-known premium box wine, sales of which nearly TRIPLED from a year ago.