Feb 26: SulaFest 2020 introduced a brand new can-packaged Dia bubbly in red and white variants when India’s largest wine producer Sula Vineyards ‘officially’ launched the easy drinking, off-dry bubbly, becoming the first Indian winery to introduce Wine-In--Can (WIC), writes Subhash Arora who believes it has proved to be a good niche product, as confirmed by Dr. Robert Williams, Speaker at a Seminar organised at the World Bulk Wine Exhibition (WBWE) held in Amsterdam on 2-3 December, 2019 where he talked at length about growing wine-in-can culture in the US
Though the refreshing bubbly-in-a can was introduced in the Mumbai market a few days before the 12th edition of SulaFest on 2-3 February 2020, the young millennials who are the biggest target audience, enjoyed the latest addition to the Sula stable in the picnic-like atmosphere with music.
Low alcohol in a Can
Dia-in-Can is a low-alcohol, off dry (slightly sweet) sparkler with only 8% alcohol, almost half that in the standard wine bottle which can normally be as high as 14.5%. This makes it easier to match with food and even with a couple of cans in your belly you are ok to drive (though we would recommend only a can if you are the designated driver). Half a can is fine for even a pregnant woman if she does not make it a habit of drinking daily, as a few pregnant Italian women I talked to in Italy, confirmed.
New standard size
If you wonder why Dia comes in a Can of 330 mL and not the usual 187 mm or 375 mL size as in bottles, your first guess would be correct. Though one does not normally like to drink a ‘pint’ of wine, this has become a standard size in the canning industry in India where beer and coke are already sold in cans. The most important part in canning is the inside lining. Karan Vasani, the Chief Winemaker at Sula, says the quality team at Sula worked with a Can company in Aurangabad for 6 months and accepted after several sample trials and certifications.
Spumante or Frizzante
Sula describes it as an ‘Italian style Spumante wine’ on its website but in reality it is a Frizzante by definition at 2.8 -3 bar pressure, as confirmed by Karan. Any sparkler with a pressure of 2.5-3.5 bars is technically a Frizzante while 5-6 bars pressure makes it a Spumante- like Champagne, most Proseccos and most high-end Indian bubblies like Il Tropicale, Chandon and Soiree Brut made with traditional method. With today’s technology it is not practical to pack Spumante in the cans.
The standard bottle of 750 mL retails for Rs. 450 in Mumbai market, making the 330 mL can at Rs. 180 not more expensive than the bottle. At 2.1 times more liquid in a standard bottle, it means it retails for Rs. 80 a glass of 150 mL that makes it a very affordable alternative even to beer. Sula plans to make around 150,000-200,000 cans this year; a third have already been produced.
Global Market for WIC
It would be interesting to see the response to the cans in the market beyond the novelty/fad value. Many importers and a couple of producers would be itching to introduce this variant if Sula is successful in sales. But it is no more a fad in the global markets, says Dr. Robert Williams, a Marketing professor in the US universities and co-founder of WICReserch. He is very gung-ho about the potential of the WIC market. The company he co-founded is a leader in the fast-growing wine-in-a-can (WIC) market with 30-years’ experience in working for Fortune 50/500 companies.
He feels that the greatest potential right now is the vibrant US market, where his company tracks nearly 400 winemakers offering over 1,000 SKUs of WIC. UK and Australia are also growing rapidly followed by Europe, South America, and South Africa, he said at the Seminar which was very popular with those generally interested in bulk wine packaged in cans.
According to Robert, the growth of WIC demand is driven by 6 factors- Convenience, Occasion expansion, Sustainability/cost savings, Quality, Portion control/Variety, and Visual image/branding. Millennials are not the only age group who buy wines in a can. Retirees in their 80s are also customers. Chefs like canned wine, too. However, only 60 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by his company, were aware of wine-in-a-can options and they could not remember a brand name selling this type of wine packaging. In the US, all the top wineries, top varietals and top distributors offer cans.
Dr. Williams said at the seminar that preservation of wine in the can against oxidation or reduction depended on the can, lining and the process. Explaining the process briefly he said, ‘the empty cans are loaded to the line, cleaned inside, filled, dosed with a shot to remove oxygen at the head and end capped. Care must be taken with the finished WIC, since denting of the can also damage the lining’.
There are an estimated 450 wineries across 25 US States and 21 countries that are making wine-in can and now India has also been now added to the list of the countries, making it 22.
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