Cardboard and plastic are outrunning glass and cork in France, the bastion of wine tradition, where “a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.” For the past several years, the fastest-growing category of wine sales has been the nontraditional, and unromantic, bag-in-box.
“The bag-in-box category is the only dynamic segment of the wine market in France right now,” says Bertrand Girard, CEO of the Val d’Orbieu Group, one of the country’s largest wine cooperatives, headquartered in the Languedoc. “For consumers, the price is attractive and it is very handy to use. All the big, key players are invested in bag-in-box.”
Boxed wine, sold mainly in supermarkets, reached 18% of the French wine market in 2010, according to FranceAgriMer. From 17.5 million liters in 1997, it grew to 1.3 billion liters by 2006. Growth has continued by about 15% per year since then.
“Consumers see the bag-in-box system keeping wine fresh for a very long time, providing great value for money and quality just as good as in a bottle,” says Tom Warner, export director of Vignobles Dauré, which includes Château de Jau in Roussillon. His company experienced 30% growth in boxed wines under its Jaja de Jau and Aroma labels over the past year. But boxed wine still can’t replace the bottle in certain settings. Says Warner, “Monsieur et Madame Dupont of the 21st century would not consider anything but a cork closure in a restaurant—even synthetic corks get the thumbs down in the French restaurant sector!”