A Brick of Wine, Please

by Jeanne

3cab_1 This isn’t a post about wine. It’s a marketing post about wine. Quite a few posts have been written about Three Thieves and wine that is cheap due to an after market purchase and the addition of a screw cap. This is only a small part of the story. 

Three Thieves wine is produced by three vintners who call themselves "liberators of fine wine."  The wine producers started selling wine virtually in 2003.  The upstart winery bottled, er, ah, is jugged into squat glass containers that hold 33% more than the standard  750-ml bottle.  Known as much for their innovative packaging as for what is in it, the Three Thieves may turn out to be branding geniuses. They have willingly chosen to ignore all the standard branding and packaging rules for selling wine.

And they are succeeding. According an article in Brand Packaging, "Three Thieves sold 100,000 cases of wine under its namesake brand in 2003, its inaugural year. The brand is one of the hottest-selling table wines in the United States, and projections are for sales of 600,000 cases in 2005."

The “thieves” are Roger Scommegna, Charles Bieler and Joel Gott. Scommegna handles the marketing responsibilities from the consumer packaged goods center  of Milwaukee, while Gott is a third-generation Napa Valley name as he operates Joel Gott Wines in Oakville, Calif. Bieler’s family operates Chateau Routas in France.  The Three Thieves purchase supplies of high quality and premium wines from around the world, package it and distribute the finished product to consumers at an affordable cost.

The initial marketing task was to create a perception that Three Thieves was to produce a great everyday wine for under $10.00.  A "steal" if you will. The packaging is distinct. Jugs and labels were designed to fit with their image of Americana. It also resembles a moonshine bottle. The personality of the brand is carried out at their website and in fashionable logo’d t-shirts and hats. Another conscious decision was to use a  screw cap which costs 2.5 cents per unit, compared with 30 to 50 cents per unit for cork.

Tetra Now the group is moving into carton-based aseptic package for Italian white wine, which it will market under the Bandit Bianco name.  The carton will carry a retail price of $5.99, a bit more than half of the jug’s $9.99 retail price.  They are able to hold the costs down due to this new packaging option which costs "14 cents per unit, compared with $1.50 for a standard glass bottle with a cork closure." according to Brand Packaging.  Most of us here in the States turn our noses up at boxes of wine.  But in Italy, over 50% of the wine is sold in this form in grocery stores. 

According to a press release from Tetra Pak, the manufacturers of the "brik" container" it has an "easy opening with tight re-closing to protect the product, and pouring control and accuracy. The package…will better differentiate Three Thieves’ premium wine brands on the shelf and make them extremely economical to distribute, store and stock."  This is another element to their formula–in-store merchandising.  They requested that they have stand-alone displays and provide "orange-and-black paperboard shippers, when stacked alternatively on their orange or black sides, create a checkerboard pattern that makes them eye-appealing as floor displays."

I love rule breakers, particularly when creativity, intuition and experience combine to prove winning. And this is at least, most of the tale.

Brand Packaging article on Three Theives

Review from Wine Gourmet (September 2004)

"The winemakers have turned high quality Zinfandel juice into a bright, fruity red wine that displays notes of blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, chocolate and sugar-dusted violets. There is just enough tanginess on the finish to be refreshing with non-serious foods such as burgers, B-L-T sandwiches, or grilled eggplant drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Don’t be afraid of the screw cap because this is the wave of the future."