A quick guide to bottle packaging

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Gifting bottles of wine, champagne, beer, and spirits, as well as non-alcoholic tipples is a popular option as Christmas approaches… In the UK alone, we buy over 1 billion bottles of wine each year. Currently, 14% of this is bought online (that’s 140 million bottles!) and it’s expected by 2025, 20% of all wine sales will take place online.  

With more and more people shopping for bottles online, drinks retailers need to ensure they’re using the correct bottle packaging to prevent damages and deliver products safely to customers.

Our guide will review why using the right bottle packaging is important, the types of packaging available for bottles and how to choose the best bottle packaging for your product…

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Why using packaging for bottles is important

Why using packaging for bottles is important

Have you ever considered the impact the right packaging can have on your operating costs and customer experience?

First, let’s think about damages…

Understanding the cost of damages

According to our latest unboxing survey research, 7% of all parcels are delivered damaged. So, if we consider just the wine industry, if 7% of all bottles delivered were damaged, that’s over 9.8m bottles that could end up compromised each year!

When any product is damaged in transit, online retailers have to factor in:

  • The cost of product replacement
  • Cost to reputation and customer experience
  • The expense and hassle of reverse / or replacement logistics
  • Cost to the environment – the carbon cost of transactions increase when products have to be replaced

With damages to drinks shipments, online retailers also have to consider the potential contamination to other products in multi-pick parcels. In a hamper, if a bottle leaks liquid, there’s the potential for the whole shipment to end up unusable, which isn’t ideal.

The role of packaging

This is where using the right packaging comes in. Transit packaging’s primary purpose is to protect your products. That’s why using packaging for bottles is critical if you’re an online drinks retailer.

Getting your bottle packaging right will enable you to cut damages, protect your reputation and even contribute to future sales. In fact, a good delivery experience can encourage 65% consumers to buy again!

The type of packaging you choose may depend on lots of different things. Let’s take a look at the different types of bottle packaging available to choose from…

Types of bottle packaging available

Types of bottle packaging available

There’s wide range of different packaging options available! So, what’s the difference between them? Here, we’ve outlined seven different bottle packaging options you can choose from…

Airsac® wine bottle packaging and beer packaging

1. Airsac® wine bottle packaging and beer packaging

Airsac is inflatable packaging, that is supplied flat and inflated upon use. It’s made of 2% film and 98% air when it’s in use, so it’s super lightweight for shipping and easy to store compared to traditional bottle packaging methods like polystyrene.

Essentially, Airsac is a high-performance alternative to using bubble wrap, and it provides great protection against damages.

Airsac bottle packaging is available for one, two, three, six or 12 wine / 70cl bottles, as well as magnums. There’s also “off-the-shelf” options for one, three, six or nine bottles of beer. You can choose to buy the inflatable bags on their own or with an outer cardboard box for an all-in-one bottle packaging solution.

As it’s inflated upon use, you do need a hand pump or an air compressor. There are also automated inflation options available for high-demand environment.

And while the Airsac bag is made of plastic, the wine bottle and selected beer bottle Airsacs contain 50% recycled content and can be recycled with bags at large supermarkets in the UK. All outer cardboard boxes are kerbside recyclable.

  1. High level of protection
  2. Range of “off-the-shelf” Airsac bottle packaging options
  3. Recyclable by end users – but at different locations
  4. Automation available
  • Inflation equipment needed

2. Flexi-Hex® bottle packaging

Flexi-Hex is a 100% kerbside recyclable bottle packaging solution. The unique honeycomb design expands to fit around bottes snuggly and provides protection in transit.

You can choose Flexi-Hex bottle packaging in one, two and three bottle options for online retail that include the sleeves and shipping boxes, as well as single bottle gift packs.  

It’s an ideal eco-friendly bottle packaging choice as it’s completely kerbside recyclable, made from up to 85% recycled content, made from renewable paper material and is ultimately biodegradable. A great option if your customers are particularly eco-conscious (check our latest unboxing research which highlights that 27% of consumers won’t buy from a retailer again if their packaging isn’t sustainable).

  • Good level of protection
  • Range of “off-the-shelf” Flexi-Hex packaging for bottles
  • Completely kerbside recyclable

3. Cardboard bottle packaging

Cardboard bottle packaging, like bottle boxes with dividers are widely available and you can usually choose from single bottle boxes or solutions for cases of six or 12 bottles.

This type of bottle packaging is available “off-the-shelf” or can be customised to your requirements, like any bespoke cardboard box. This means this type of packaging is great if you want to brand it with your own logo or messaging. However, it can be more time consuming from a packing perspective, as it can take more assembly and taping time compared to solutions like Airsac and Flexi-Hex that are ready to go.

All cardboard bottle packaging is totally kerbside recyclable, which is good for the environment. However, you need to make sure the specification of the bottle box is suitable for the weight and size of the bottles you’re shipping to minimise damages.

  1. Mid-level protection (be mindful of total pack weight)
  2. Can be customised, but minimum order quantities can apply
  3. Completely kerbside recyclable
  • Could take longer to assemble
Polystyrene bottle packaging

4. Polystyrene bottle packaging

Moulded polystyrene is a traditional bottle packaging option that provides a high level of protection during shipping. It’s readily available in packs for one, two or three bottles.

However, it’s fallen out of favour in recent years as it’s quite hard to dispose of for the end user, so it can lead to a negative customer experience and impact the packaging waste you create.  

This type of bottle packaging also uses a lot of storage space, so if storage is limited in your warehouse or packing area, you may want to consider something more space efficient. This extra bulk can also impact your shipping and courier costs – as your parcels dimensional weight may be larger. This in turn also impacts CO2 output during transit.

  1. High level of protection
  • Not environmentally friendly / hard to dispose of
  • Bulky to store and can be expensive to ship

5. UPS approved spirit packaging

UPS approved spirits packaging is a bottle packaging option that has been designed by Macfarlane Packaging in conjunction with UPS and Sealed Air.

This UPS certified packaging is available in four different styles for spirit bottles of different shapes and sizes:

  • Pack type A is for small and bulky bottles, typically gin and whisky
  • Pack type B is the widest design and fits both bulky and flat bottles
  • Pack type C is the tallest of the UPS approved spirit packs for tall and slim bottles of vodka, tequila, or gin
  • Pack type D is a traditional size bottle pack that fits bottles of wine or conventionally sized drinks bottes

Each pack features an outer cardboard box with a korrvu insert that holds a bottle securely in place. They provide a good level of protection and if you have a UPS alcohol shipping account, the pack is guaranteed against damages.

It is slightly more costly than other “off-the-shelf” bottle packaging options, so is best suited to high-end or valuable bottles, such as aged whiskies or other expensive spirits.

  1. Certified protection if you have a UPS account
  2. Largely recyclable
  3. Good for high end spirits or bottles with unusual shapes
  • Can be more costly vs. other packaging for bottles
Bottle Packaging

6. Moulded pulp bottle packaging

Moulded pulp bottle packaging is an environmentally-friendly alternative to polystyrene. They’re easy to recycle and will biodegrade when disposed of, as they’re made from paper pulp fibres.

They can be manufactured as endcaps, so they fit the top and bottom of a bottle or can be tailored to a specific bottle format. Moulded pulp bottle packaging is also fairly straightforward to pack and dispatch too and requires little instruction.

However, they don’t offer as high a level of protection as some of the other packaging for bottles we’ve listed here. Plus, like polystyrene they can be bulkier to store than other options.

  1. Mid-level protection
  2. Easy to use
  3. Recyclable by end users
  • Bulky to store
Gift packaging for bottles. Bottle Packaging

7. Gift packaging for bottles

For an extra-special touch, gift packaging for bottles is also worth considering as part of your unboxing experience. If used within the transit box, it adds an extra layer of protection and will deliver the wow-factor when your customer opens your packaging.

Wooden wine boxes through to solid board gift packaging options with magnetic closures are all available. The latter is often custom made, so will have a minimum order quantity. Great for seasonal celebrations like Christmas, you could monetise gift packaging options on your own website year-round.

  1. Can add an extra layer of protection
  2. Adds to the wow-factor to the unboxing experience
  3. Customisable to your brand
  • Higher minimum order quantities
Choosing the right bottle packaging for your business

Choosing the right bottle packaging for your business

The bottle packaging you need will depend on a number of factors:

  • How many bottles you send in each shipment
  • The size of your bottles
  • The weight of your bottles
  • How damage prone your bottes are
  • If your bottles are going in multi-pick packs  
  • The storage space available in your packing area or warehouse
  • How important the environmental credentials of your packaging are to your customers (and your own environmental impact goals)

You’ll also want to consider things like if you want to customise your packaging in any way – with print or the size and shape of the packaging.  Customising packaging may increase the minimum order quantity and the lead times. So, if you need packaging for bottles quickly, you may want to go for something “off-the-shelf” now.

Downloadable bottle packaging guide

Downloadable bottle packaging guide

Want to compare the features of the types of bottle packaging we’ve outlined in this article? Click to download our handy bottle packaging comparison guide.

Need help deciding which bottle packaging you need?

If you’re an online drinks retailer who needs advice about bottle packaging, bottle boxes or in-box protection for your products, we can help.

Get in touch with the Macfarlane Packaging team today.

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