Why wineries change their label design

wine label designMostly, because they can. That’s one of the conclusions of an article I wrote for the Beverage Media trade magazine, trying to figure out why so many producers seem to be changing the look and design of their labels. Because, given the changes in the wine business, with more and bigger companies controlling more brands, it’s going to happen more often.

Or, as one retailer told me: “Sometimes I wonder why they need to fix something that isn’t broken.”

And, though the article was written for retailers, it has lessons for consumers as well. Ever go into a store, look for your favorite wine in its regular place with its regular label, and not see it? Chances are it’s still there; it just has a different label. Don’t laugh. Retailers told me this happens all the time.

So what’s going on with all the re-labeling?

• It’s difficult to get a firm grasp on how often this happens. Brands that have changed labels over the past several years include Blackstone, Columbia Crest, La Vieille Ferme, Jacobs Creek, Columbia Winery, Cuvaison, Hahn, Parducci, and Langhe Twins.

• Producers, facing a need to make their product stand out among what may be 15,000 different wines in the U.S., are more willing to change the label than ever before. In addition, they know more about this kind of marketing, and will spend the money to do it where they may have been reluctant before.

• Consumers aren’t always the primary target for label changes. Producers sometimes do it to impress distributors and retailers, to reassure them that they care about the brand and will put marketing dollars behind it. This is completely different from every other consumer packaged good, and we have the three-tier system to thank for it.

• Most label changes aren’t complete makeovers, although that seems to be happening more often. Usually, the changes are tweaks to reinforce the brand’s image, and are only noticeable over time.

• Once-popular wines that aren’t anymore are the most likely to get a new label. Also, producers aren’t shy about changing labels on popular brands, if they see a chance to keep the current audience, which may be older, and attract a new, younger one.

7 Responses to Why wineries change their label design

  1. This is a great list of reasons for changing labels. It is funny how important it is for a label to catch someone’s eye and how label design has zero correlation with how wines taste.


  2. John Broome says:

    I remember the old days, the mid to late sixties, when Italian Swiss Colony ruled the California Wine world for ordinary wine..remember ” The little old winemaker, me”? on Television, if you can believe it …an upstart company, E&J Gallo, trying to establish a foot hold in the table wine business, ( they already owned the “20% dessert biz.)..emulated every label and bottle change that ISC did back then…we were always amazed at how quickly the changes were made…The Gallo boys knew that shelf position was critical for their success…and that labels and the shapes of bottles had to stand out, even in those days of fewer wines and fewer choices for Mr. Consumer…

    Guess who won that race? +
    Remember ISC did “Swizzle. the first ever “pop wine” ( sweet and fizzy, like soft drinks…)
    And Gallo did ” Ripple’ an amazing adventure that introduced so many young folks to wine..Fred Sanfords favorite..then it was Boone’s Farm and the rest, as they say, is History….

  3. Brian says:

    How many times has Taco Bell reinvented the Taco? Always a new campaign for the latest round of the same ingredients that were in the last version. Consumers get bored an want something different, even if it is only the label.

  4. Ray Dietz says:

    I was able to cash in on the Columbia Winery label change mentioned in your post. The Pa Wine & Spirits system bought up a LOT of CW 2010 Columbia Valley Chardonnay (with the old style label, of course) and are selling it @$6.99 The wine is drinking well. More of an Old World style featuring light body and crisp acidity in place of big fruit and oak. Very nice.

    • That has to be near cost, Ray. Another fine job by the Pa. wine and spirits system.

      • Ray Dietz says:

        This wine is one of what the Pa. W&S promote as a “Chairman’s Selection” They do find some nice bottles at good prices and a lot of the wines they get would probably not be available at a Mom & Pop store. One of a couple of advantages with the Pa. W&S system.

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