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Why launch a wine brand exclusively in cans?

Felicity Murray asks Caroline Ruijg, commercial director at Vinovation International, brand owner of Wild Pelican, about the inspiration behind the brand

Caroline Ruijg Vinovation International

Felicity Murray asks Caroline Ruijg, commercial director at Vinovation International, brand owner of Wild Pelican, about the inspiration behind the brand

How did the idea for a wine brand in a can come about?
While on a plane on my way to a holiday in Thailand, I ordered a glass of Australian wine. When it arrived I noticed it was served from a can, and I remember thinking what a brilliant idea this was! It was this moment that inspired me to create an ambitious, innovative, and yet sophisticated, high power wine brand that could appeal to a large consumer group, with wines from all over the world…and Wild Peli “CAN” was born!

It is our mission to make wine more accessible and understandable to a larger consumer group, allowing them to enjoy wine during new drinking occasions or when a bottle is deemed excessive. We wanted to offer a wine brand for the modern brand conscious consumer. This is why we created Wild Pelican. We support the brand with a variety of marketing merchandise and POS materials.

I see a real opportunity for a wine brand that is focused specifically on single serve sizes.  The format is gaining more and more popularity across many categories as it meets the needs of today’s active consumer and the increasing number of single-person households. It also fits in with modern society’s increasing health concerns over portion control.

Does wine in a can taste as good as bottled wine?
Yes. Actually the can protects the wine very well. There is a special coating on the inside of the can that preserves the wine perfectly so it never comes into contact with the aluminium. Moreover, the can protects the wine from harmful UV sunrays and cork taint is never an issue!

We’re working with a contract filler that has over 6 years experience with filling wine in cans so our wine is packaged to the highest standard. We have performed numerous blind tastings with wine professionals who all confirmed that they couldn’t tell the difference between wine from a  can, bottle or cask, so yes wine in a can tastes just as good as from a bottle. We do encourage consumers to pour the wine from the can into a wine glass as this can enhance their wine drinking experience.

Do you envisage a six-pack of wine?
In our 187ml can range, we have a branded three pack and six pack. These types of packaging are used for specialty stores and duty free shops, at Schiphol airport for instance! It forms a lovely gift. Our 250ml range is packed in four-packs that are shrink wrapped during production, this is ideal for retailing in a supermarket - one four-pack forms 1 litre of wine. Having a number of packaging forms that suits the sales outlet is very important.

With so much talk surrounding the UK’s binge drinking culture, do you think the cans can help address this in any way?
Yes, drinking wine from cans makes portion control easier. When sharing a bottle of wine with friends or colleagues, glasses are often topped up or re-filled making it quite difficult to know how much wine has been consumed.  With wine in a can, you know exactly how many portions you’ve had. Plus, many people feel obligated to finish a bottle of wine as it might not taste as nice after a couple of days in the fridge, and consequently drink more. This is not the case with Wild Pelican. Another important benefit is that cans are tamper proof. This is especially relevant in bars as you open your own can and pour it out in a glass.

What types of wines have you made available in a can?
Our wine tasting panel, consisting of wine professionals, target market consumers and wine lovers from different nationalities, selected high quality wines from various wine growing regions around the world. We believe this variety adds to the fun for consumers as they get to explore wines from all over the world. In our 187ml range, we have a smooth silky Tempranillo red wine from Spain, a vibrantly fruity Chenin Blanc white wine and a seriously refreshing Grenache/Shiraz rosé wine from France.

In our 250ml range, we have the same red and rosé wine, but a different white; a superb delightfully crispy Pinot Grigio from Hungary. The Tempranillo grape was selected because it tastes best when slightly chilled as it maintains all its fruity flavour. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to become a little acidic when chilled.

On airplanes, all drinks are slightly chilled due to cooling units inside the trolleys, and so it was important to pick wines that maintain their taste when enjoyed at a lower temperature. All of our wine selections where fruit driven and easy to drink.

Where can they be purchased?
Our sales strategy is to find local distributors world-wide with experience in brand-building. We want to work with people who recognise the opportunity Wild Pelican offers and who have a deep local network, supplying both on-trade and off-trade. We have already successfully launched and are currently launching the brand in over 20 other domestic markets throughout the world.

The consumer response (repeating high purchase rates) and feedback have been very encouraging. Together with some of the largest (airline) catering companies and airports, we are also targeting the travel industry and duty free channels. People can visit our website: and fill out our contact form to receive exact purchase locations in their country of residence.

What are the environmental benefits?
The great thing about the can is that the entire package is 100% recyclable and infinitely recyclable without loss of quality. In fact, cans are the most recycled drink pack in the world and, unlike other materials, each can recycled substantially reduces the environmental footprint of the next can.

Additionally, because of their light weight and stackable shape, less waste and fuel is consumed during transport. Cans offer the lowest carbon emissions for transporting beverages - Slim cans have half the CO2 road transport emissions of 75cl wine bottles.

Who is Wild Pelican’s target market?
Our products were created for wine loving people looking for convenience or single serve quality wine. Early adopters tend to be well educated, brand conscious consumers living in urban areas born between 1970 and 1990. They have active lifestyles and tend to spend a fair bit of money on going out and on the way they look. There is also a bit of a female bias. As mentioned before, we are also targeting airlines and cruise / ferry lines.

Do you think the can will put off ‘experienced’ wine drinkers?
I can imagine that for some people it will take time to get used to the can as a packaging format for wine. With Wild Pelican we’ve created an elegant and sophisticated “look” as well as a luxurious “feel” for the can using a matt varnish.

The screw cap also took time for experienced wine drinkers to accept but now even conservative, traditional wine producers are adopting it. Consumers appreciate the convenience it offers and accept that it is actually good for the wine. I am confident that a similar scenario will follow with the aluminium can for the exact same reasons.

We’re not trying to replace the bottle; instead we’re improving the availability and portability of wine so that it can be enjoyed during more drinking occasions, such as on a boat or where glass is not allowed (outdoor concert/stadium etc) or simply at home when consumers don’t want to open an entire bottle. A can is actually like a miniature version of the tanks where most wine is stored before it gets bottled!

What does the future look like for Wild Pelican?
The future looks promising. All international trials have been successful. High acceptance levels and repeat purchase rates have resulted in national listings in both cash & carry and supermarkets across the world. We’re now onboard three airlines in Europe and feedback from the crew and passengers has been very positive.

Because of the enormous benefits for weight and space savings with the can onboard airlines, we’ll continue to invest and create more awareness in this sector. As environmental awareness is becoming more and more important, we are also meeting with retailers in the UK who are committed to alternative, lighter packaging for wine.

We will continue to support and grow our international distributor network world-wide and invest heavily in our brand. Our goal is to become the No.1 single-serve wine brand in the world.

How does the price between glass bottles and cans compare (like for like)?
At this moment, Wild Pelican is not yet available in retail stores in the UK. Our distributor in the UK is Bottlegreen ( who is currently in negotiation with a large retail chain. We do expect to launch in the first quarter of 2010 in Ireland in a well known retail chain. Prices for Wild Pelican are the same as upper medium segment bottles in 187ml or 250ml size.

Irene Martinez (category development manager for Rexam BCE&A manufacturer of the wine can) comments on the history of wine in can sales:
"Wine cans have been around for many years. Tesco began selling French red and white wines in cans almost 10 years ago. Rexam started focusing on the wine market back in 2006, when it realised that there was a gap in the market for convenient, portable and lightweight packaging for young wine consumers, who do not consider themselves among traditional wine drinkers. Rexam developed the 200ml can (ideal for single serve and specific for Rexam’s wine project), and allocated resources to project development as well as increasing the marketing activities around the wine industry.

"Since then, things have really started to take off. With sales moving from 6 million cans to 30 million cans in 3 years; it has been a success already and Rexam is looking forward to the forecasted future growth of the category.

"The can making process has certainly improved over the years; however, the principles behind the manufacturing process remain the same. The main technological changes have happened on the graphics side. Rexam is now able to offer its customers great graphic capabilities, including matt finishes, sparkle varnishes, thermochromic inks and photographic like printing with Illustration Impact."


1 October 2009