Technology Enhances Wine, Spirits and Beer Labels

What’s the purpose of a wine label; or for that matter a label on spirits and beer? Obviously, the first response to that question is: to satisfy the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) regulations. Once that is accomplished, the label space remaining may be used for branding and marketing copy. The fact is, there is very little space on bottle labels to get creative with messages. Now technology is helping solve the limited space on labels by way of RFID (radio frequency identification/ID) technology. Tap a smartphone on a NFC (Near Field Communications) tag embedded on a bottle and see what comes up on your smartphone; assuming there is currently a tag on the label.

Depending on a winery’s budget and the number of smartphones enabled with RFID tag readers (newer smartphones have built-in reader capability), wine, beer and spirits producers can communicate directly with the consumer while they are standing in front of the bottle or can. These electronic tags can impart information in any format. The information can be audio, a message or automatically opening a website page; the choice is up to the winery or craft beverage company. The most economical tag option is to use NFC tags embedded in a label or a very thin flexible film adhered to a bottle.

This NFC technology has different names such as Smart Labels, Tags, and OpenSense Tags; the moniker I use is “Tap Tags”. Smart Labels (originated in the consumer products industry) are starting to appear on food, personal care and pharma items. Although extremely limited, spirits, beer and wine are recent joiners. In fact, companies using smart label tags are not just the big players in the food and personal care space but are also used by small start-ups. Basically, tags are a means for producers of products to give the consumer more information than is possible to print on a label. But, the benefits of such tags aren’t just in dispensing more information, it is also about branding, loyalty, increased sales, etc.

QR codes have been around for decades. They can do some of the operations a NFC tag can perform but are limited. More on QR code versus NFC follows.

Twenty years ago, I was involved with a gentleman who is an expert integrator of RFID (radio frequency identification/ID) tag technologies for casinos. His patented technology is used today in allowing casinos to authenticate and track their gaming chips within a casino. Ken Smith, writing for on November 5, 2012 reported that Wynn/Encore Casino’s in Las Vegas starting using chips embedded with RFID tags in 2005. Point being: the level of sophistication offered by “tag” technologies allow companies to communicate with consumers, even before they buy the product.

Decades ago barcodes started allowing companies the means to track inventory, monitor parts and adjust pricing instantly. Then RFID tags came along which expanded the capabilities of product monitoring passively and actively; reading and writing information to a RFID tag. Depending on the capabilities of an RFID tag, information can not only be read from a tag, but that tag can also be written to; adding more/different/updated information on the tag. We don’t want to forget the QR (Quick Response Code) that most smart phones can read optically and provide an on-screen response via a link to a landing page. The QR code, invented in 1994 has a similar application as the barcode. Smartphones today come with QR reading capabilities and more recently antenna to communicate with NFC tags.

A derivative of RFID technology that is gaining acceptance rapidly is the NFC tag. A strong proponent of NFC technology is coming from Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute-the SmartLabel™ group. They formed an alliance called Trade Partners Alliance to explore ways to be transparent with quick, reliable, actionable, in-depth product information for the consumer. One of their applications involves NFC tags which takes the consumer, via their smartphone, to a navigational landing page. All the consumer is required to do is tap their smartphone on the NFC tag on the product packaging.


Wines, Spirits and Hampers Are Not Always Good Value As Corporate Gifts

Corporate gifts of wines, spirits and hampers are different from many business and promotional gifts in that they are not usually personalized in the same overt way as corporate gifts for the office – sometimes just a tag from the sender is notification.

Other than this there is very little actual advertising associated with these products although some companies do use their own personalized wine labels. Their own labels are often affixed to standard wines and, to some eyes, may look a little tacky when the quality of a wine should be all-important.

Corporate gifts of wines, spirits and hampers include champagne, smoked salmon, succulent hams, Stilton and hand-made chocolates. All of which – and this is most important – are exquisitely presented in stylish presentation boxes and contemporary basket-ware.

Whether launching a product, holding a conference, giving a gift to your own staff, sales force, retired employees or your own valued clients, brand names on this prestigious gift are all-important to emphasize the high perceived value.

Here are some suggestions that may tempt you; however, remember once these gifts are gone, they are gone, and, unlike desktop corporate gifts, your logo and contact details are nowhere in sight.

If you decide on champagne then choose only the prestigious brands and do not forget they come in other sizes as well as bottles; you will certainly stand out from the crowd if you give a jeroboam or a Methuselah.

A two or three bottle presentation pack of selected themed wines is always acceptable; favorites being French wines but quality Californian, Australian, South African or New Zealand are acceptable. Alternatively, send a presentation case containing three wines from different countries.

Pursuing the themed idea, you can build a presentation box around a selection of port, sherry or whiskey.

Even though the perennial favorite, a presentation pack of quality port together with a half moon of finest Stilton, is not very original it is still a corporate gift to savor. Alternatively, ring the changes with the classic combination of caviar and vodka or perhaps a bottle of port together with a pack of the finest French truffles.

Traditional hampers filled with a choice selection of delicious food and wine are always popular whether in the original willow hamper basket or an attractive decorated carton giving scope for imaginative full-color personalization. Hampers are especially versatile in that you can choose a stock item or select the contents from a predetermined budget menu.

Favorite hamper contents are wines, cheeses, hams, smoked salmon, chocolates, oatcakes, jams, brandy snaps, shortcakes, mince pies, Christmas puddings, brandy butter, Christmas cakes, nuts and deluxe Belgian chocolates.

However, corporate gifts of wines, spirits and hampers are not the most economical and it is certainly questionable whether they give the same value for money as other corporate gifts and promotional items. Nonetheless, if the budget is flexible enough you will certainly have a bunch of satisfied customers; at least for a little while.


Spotlight on Wine, Spirits and Beverages Management Degrees

Today, the specialized courses dealing with subjects such as wine and spirits and beverage have management degrees that are recognized as meaningful courses and approved upon as a great asset in research as well as the Wine and Beverages Industry.

Programs like the MVS are offered by several management colleges that provide the students with practical and adapted response required by the Wine and the Spirits Sector.

Not only are there many rising opportunities in the European or French markets, in the wines as well as the spirits sector but in fact there are worldwide opportunities as well. It is one sector that is becoming more competitive each day.

The wine companies are facing a lot of economic and managerial problems that need to be solved. The wines and spirits sector companies are searching for expert managers who cannot just work with the marketing tools but are experienced and operational in matters of sales and its techniques. To understand and master the sales technique is very important. While these are the basic requirements, they are other qualifications too that should be met before deciding upon a career in this industry.

These additional qualifications are; a keen sense of creativity and adaptability and general knowledge; that is both strategic and cultural, about the company as well as the wine market.

The Wine and Spirits Management Program assists the person to understand the nature of work required of him and prepares him to work in collaboration with the experts of the Wine industry. Students learn how to guide and explain the problems that arise and provide the solutions to them. Thus an expert in the field can correspond aptly to the requirements of the company.

In many cases the tuition fee and payroll is done by the company itself. Special guidance is provided by the experts of the respective field and in 15 months time, which includes study as well as practical learning, you are all set to enter the Wine industry with all passion and vigor. For any industry it is important for an individual to learn and understand the nature and need of that particular industry and then decide to work his way accordingly, this ensures better understanding of the subject and thus far better implementation.

There are a lot of opportunities waiting for you not only in the European or French markets but instead there are new English and American markets which are growing at a fast pace, to keep up with the competition.


Career in Wine and Spirits and Beverages Management

Are you really passionate about beer, wine or any other types of beverages? Or do you actually carry a dream or planning to become the kind of expert who can pair beverages and food for the most discerning customer? Well, if so then making a career in this wine and beverages management can play a vital role in realizing your dream. In fact, this could be an ideal field where you can make your career.

Today there are many culinary schools in the United States that are offering specialized programs in wine and beverages management. The key feature that makes this program unique and different from others is it is designed and supported by leading wine and beverage experts from some of the industry’s finest restaurants and hotels. The program educates you about all the key skills that you generally required to pursue a rewarding career in wine and beverage management. And, best of all, this program is it provides a platform where you can expand your knowledge of:

Viticulture and Viniculture
Tasting techniques
Management of beverages for special menus
Graduating from this program can open all kinds of doors for you. In fact, once you complete your program you can begin a rewarding career as resident wine expert in different work settings like clubs, catering companies, restaurants, beverage agencies, cruise lines, and resorts or may even work in the beverage and wine supply industry. Apart from this, there are many other options where you can make your career as-

Wine / Beverage Sommelier: Working as a wine or beverage sommelier, your responsibilities may revolve around serving in a restaurant, including storage, and wine cellar rotation. He may even require to work along with the executive chef to find wines that complement a specific menu. However, if you are working in any restaurant then at times you may require preparing the wine lists or even provide training to other staff about the wines and wine service. If we talk in terms of salary then as a beginner, you could easily earn a decent salary as $28,000, but as you gain experience and certification, you may make between $80,000 and $160,000. Though to be a Master Sommelier, you need to pass a series of exams from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Restaurant or Hotel Beverage Manager: This is another specialized field that combines the creativity of the kitchen along with the business of running wine and beverage operations. Now, working as a restaurant or hotel beverage manager, your skills may go beyond managing day to day beverage operations. A good wine & beverage manager is a good leader and manager of diverse staff, and so your day to day work responsibilities may include:

Recruiting and providing training to staff
Monitoring the staff performance and further provide the feedback
Monitoring revenues and expenses
Negotiating supplier arrangements for wine and beverage products
Casino Wine and Beverage Manager: No other job prospects have gained as popularity in the past ten years as the casino line jobs. In fact, the demand for casino wine and beverage manager in the last four years has doubled. Performing the role of casino wine and beverage manager, your responsibilities may revolve around managing different activities of the beverage function. Besides this, at times you may even require to identify or evaluate strategies in order to increase your revenue and guest satisfaction with the department’s services. In addition to this, you may also require monitoring the equipment and inventory levels and take appropriate action if required.


The Process of Getting Wine to the Consumer Is A Circuitous Process

Different kinds of alcohol on a white background

The logistics in getting a product from the manufacturer to the retails shelf seems not to have changed much until the internet and now the drones. We don’t rely on the brick and mortar store as much. But, there is one area where distribution hasn’t changed greatly over the last 2 or 3 decades-wine. We even get our drugs delivered by USPS and FedEx. We simply assume the manufacturer is trying to keep the price of their product competitive and reasonable and are therefore using the cheapest means to get a product on the retail or consumer direct. Even automobile tires are sold on-line and delivered by UPS to our home; of course the buyer must get them installed. Yes, Amazon sells and fulfills most everything imaginable on-line.

These issues of distribution highlight the plethora of options available to the consumer in purchasing products, using multiple channels of free market distribution. The one area where consumer products are distributed using a federally mandated 83 year-old law are-wines, spirits and beer. The federal and state law mandated system for distribution of wine (specifically) is a Three-Tier System; a system of awarded monopolies condoned by the Federal government. But, recognize that each state controls and manages this system to individual state standards.

It is this system that gets wine on the shelf, which should concern any wine consumer because it impacts the wine consumers’ pocket book. Let me illustrate. What if the government set up a system whereby dairies could only sell milk in their own cartons to milk distributors? Further, the diary must deliver their milk to a distributor who would off load it from the diary’s truck onto their own truck and deliver it to the store. The distributor would get a 50% discount on the milk and then sell it to the store with their mar-up. The distributor would have the contracts with the stores and could also rep competitive dairies. And, the dairies would be responsible also for some advertising support. Would the consumer be happy with no price competition and the mandate from the government that there would never be any options available for milk? Probably not, but that is the issue today with wine. The lack of options are hidden.

The top four distributors for wine in the U.S. are: Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits, Republic National Distributing, Chamer Sunbelt Group (merged with Wirtz), and Young’s Market. These companies sell, deliver, and represent a majority of the wineries selling products in the U.S. and they control 60% market share of a $52.7 billion U.S. market of wines, spirits and beer. In reality the top 10 distributors represent 68.4% of all wine/spirit wholesalers market share.

When you see a bottle of wine on the shelf at your grocery store (not all states allow grocery stores to sell wine), that winery is probably one of hundreds of wineries represented by the top distributor. That distributor is also selling and delivering spirits and beer. The cost to the winery to get their product delivered approximates the 50% discount. A $20 bottle of wine retail is sold to the distributor at approximately $10. The distributor will sell the wine as they see fit. This includes, allocating wine to outlets based upon their volume and pricing the product to larger outlets. So basically, like in all industries, there is no level playing field; the large retailers benefit from their volume-similar to other industries.

Interestingly, distributors of a winery’s brand in “franchise states”, become an exclusive brand that can only be distributed by that distributor in perpetuity. Basically, a winery cannot negotiate with other distributors; generally. Per Mr. J.P. Connell, Esq., “after a winery merely ships a brand to a wholesaler, the winery can never terminate the wholesaler with regard to that brand, even if the parties never discussed or contracted for such a result. The wholesaler may only be terminated under certain exigent circumstances.” Approximately, half of the states are “Franchise States” and wine distributors enjoy this very beneficial arrangement. “Wine franchise laws are monopoly protection regulations to safeguard the distributor, and are currently in use in 22 US states,” reported in a Wine Business article of June 2013. They go on to say it impacts consumer’s choices and cost of wines.