The Newest Wine in a Box

Wine, glasses, and social circle included


Old-school boxed wine might seem a bit square for the young and the hip, but one wine company (made up of that same crowd) is hoping to shift the just-of-age set’s opinion. Public House Wine, launching officially around Memorial Day weekend, plans to box up quality wine that comes with 10 plastic wine cups and good vibes, all in one package. It’s a mobile party perfect for the beach, a rooftop gathering, or a barbecue at a friend’s house. And customers are instantly linked into a wine social network with invites to a slew of events aimed at like-minded drinkers.

The wine itself is still being sought, but the company is looking for the perfect quality red and white as mainstays and will box-up rosé or some bubbles seasonally. The little party in a box holds the equivalent of four bottles and will retail for approximately $35. The wine will launch in New York City first before going national.

Can’t wait until summer to dive into to this social-wine-box-experience? The company is crowdfunding for the next three weeks, offering those who get in early, discounted pricing, access to exclusive events, and most importantly, the ability to get your hands on this stuff before anybody else. Bragging rights, people, and a boxed-up party for wine drinkers on the go!

Check out our interview with the company’s co-founder and CEO Steffan Bankier.

The Daily Sip: How did Public House Wine come to be?

Bankier: I had just left the world of advertising, developing strategies for Johnnie Walker at Young and Rubicam and then for Miller Coors at Saatchi & Saatchi. I was looking to start a company of my own so Dan [Berk, co-founder] and I decided to look at the wine market. We noticed that boxed wine was seeing huge growth, and when we learned that the packaging is better for the environment, and keeps up to four bottles-worth of wine fresh for six weeks after opening, we were surprised that it only accounted for 3 percent of total wine sales in the United States (versus 18 percent in France and 50 percent in Australia).

The reason is that while Franzia dominates the value segment, a new category of super-premium boxed wine brands was emerging, targeting established wine drinkers. We think that most of these drinkers are too entrenched in their habits and too difficult to convert. Plus, most of these brands have boring packaging, and outdated marketing, especially online. So we decided to create a boxed wine brand for a new generation of wine drinkers. We re-imagined the box as we would want it, adding a sleeve of 10 stemless wine cups and a carrying handle, and hiring a cutting edge design agency to create beautiful packaging unlike anything out there. We're also filling each box with delicious but affordable wine that is as easy to drink with dinner as it is with friends.

The Daily Sip: Why will people be attracted to Public House Wine?

Bankier: One night, my girlfriend was having some friends over to watch The Bachelor, and I suggested that rather than buy a ton of bottles, or get a magnum, she try buying a box. The girls loved it, and she kept the box in her fridge for almost a month. It was great to have that wine every day after work, as if it were some magical, never ending tap.

Our generation is drinking wine earlier and in larger quantities than ever before, typically in groups. Our brand is built for this behavior. We're not a party box, but we're ideal for get togethers of six or more. We're also perfect for anytime you drink outside of the conventional wine-drinking setting. Anytime you and some friends want to drink on a roof, on the beach, or on a boat, you don't need to worry about schlepping around bottles and glassware. It's also great for drinking in smaller apartments, and you don't need to worry about doing dishes. But best of all, you never have to feel like you're at a frat party, drinking out of solo cups.

The Daily Sip: What's the benefit of getting in on the crowdfunding?

Bankier: We're building this brand because we wish it existed, but also because we know there's a need for it. The point of our Lucky Ant campaign is to get this product in the hands of our consumers so we can get their feedback. We're pre-selling our boxes for almost a third of their retail value. We're also selling heavily discounted tickets for our Influencer Tasting, which will take place in April. We did an event like this at the Red Egg last year and it was awesome. We had unlimited wine and dim sum, and everyone had a great time. We'll be selling tickets at the door but they're going to be almost half the price on Lucky Ant. Oh, and we're selling 10 fully customized boxes (awesome gift for any wino friends)!

The Daily Sip: It's not just wine, right? You're creating a wine-social network and planning to have people drink it in places we don't normally think of as wine stops?

Bankier: Right. So by social network, we don't mean the Facebook of winos, but rather, an actual network of people who are into wine, or want to learn about wine in an unpretentious environment. Right now, people are interested in wine but they're also intimidated. It's very similar to the Scotch category. One way we're rectifying that is by holding tasting events in bars and restaurants, with an intimate, relaxed vibe where people can eat, drink and learn as they please. We encourage them to bring friends, and as we drink, everyone ends up mingling and making new friends. Last time we did it was awesome. Dan is a film producer, so he's going to create some awesome video content to allow people to have their own tastings at home, and we plan on hiring a writer to publish content around food, wine, dating, and what it's like to be a 20-something in a big city.

The Daily Sip: Your target audience is young wine drinkers aged 21 to 30, but does this product appeal to a broader crowd?

Bankier: Think of a bell curve. The sweet spot is mid 20s, but I envision a long tail on either end. We can't legally market to college kids but they'll buy this product, and so will cool 30 year olds who enjoy having wine every day when they get back from work. Eventually, we'll launch a premium and then a super-premium box.

The Daily Sip: Why do you think Public House Wine breaks the stigma boxed wine faces?

Bankier: Given the right design and marketing, our packaging will convince people that it's ok to drink wine from a box. An interesting analogy is screw tops versus corks. Everyone hated screw tops at first, but now, even good restaurants use them. It's all about timing plus evolving consumers plus the right branding. We have two of those on our side out the gate, so it's really on us to create a great brand.

The whole foodie mentality is applicable to the alcohol space too: students are already switching over to craft beers and more interesting cocktails. As a generation, we are more open minded and eager for innovation than ever. So if there is ever a time or a demographic, it's millennials, today.

A few months ago, I met Danny Meyer for a few seconds and pitched Public House. I'll never forget what he said, "Great idea. I don't doubt that boxed wine will be big one day, the question is, will it be yours?" Such good motivation.

The Daily Sip: You haven't settled on what's in the box yet, but what kind of quality are you seeking?

Bankier: We want wine that tastes great without being too expensive. We're aiming for the kind of quality you would get for a $10 to $15 bottle, but each box has four bottles, and we're hoping to sell it for about $35 in stores.

We've done research, focus groups, and tastings and found that people have no idea what they really want. Most of our consumers think they like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, but according to our blind tastings, they prefer something a bit lighter on the reds and less buttery on the whites. They gravitated towards wines that were a little smoother and less tannic so we found a merlot from Languedoc [France] that we really like, and are in the final rounds of finding the perfect Italian pinot grigio.

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