Drinking outside the box: Is bag-in-box wine back?

By Emma Harrison
BBC News

  • Published
Rows of box wines with bag-in-box packaging in a supermarketImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Amazon says its sales of boxed wine in June and July are up 212% year-on-year in the UK

Supermarkets have reported a surge in sales of bag-in-box wine. Is its popularity back for good?

It has long been regarded as a cheaper - and not necessarily nicer - alternative to bottled wine.

But it seems bag-in-box vino is gradually shedding its image as cheap plonk and becoming the drink of choice for many, according to the latest sales figures.

The packaging - developed by Australian winemaker Tom Angove in the 1960s - consists of a plastic bladder encased in a cardboard box. The drink is poured from a plastic tap.

Amazon began selling boxed wine in 2015. It says sales in June and July are up 212% year-on-year in the UK.

Waitrose has recorded a 15% increase, while Sainsbury's sales of its own label bag-in-box wines are up nearly 10% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, sales of boxed wines at Asda are up 4.83% on last year.

'Pleasantly surprised'

Susy Atkins, wine columnist for the Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine, says bag-in-box wine is experiencing a surge in popularity because it is convenient and easy to transport.

"If I was heading to a festival, I would go for a bag in box rather than carrying bottles," she says.

"There are so many more outdoor events now - if not a rock festival, an outdoor cinema.

"There are good options. They won't knock your socks off, but there are viable options."

She says bag-in-box wine may also suit those who are just drinking a glass or two and want to keep their wine fresh.

Plus, the quality of cheap wine has improved, she says.

But she warns: "Most wines are palatable - it doesn't mean I am recommending it."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Boxed wine has a lower carbon footprint than bottled wine, businesswoman Kirsty Tinkler says

Weino BIB founder Kirsty Tinkler, who ran pop-up bar BIB Tap Room in east London in 2015 and 2016, says the attitude towards boxed wine has changed "unbelievably quickly" in the space of two years.

It has earned a "cool status", she says.

"I think what has changed is the number of quality wine producers is starting to go to this format. It is not just mass produced.

"People are pleasantly surprised."

She says boxed wine has a lower carbon footprint compared to bottled wine. It's also cheaper to manufacture, and to transport.

Sebastian O'Keefe - beer, wine and spirits store manager for Amazon - says bag-in-box wine increases in popularity over the summer months, because it can easily be transported to a picnic.

He says drinkers are "shrugging off" the preconceptions of boxed wine and embracing the environmental benefits of switching from glass bottles.

Waitrose - which is about to launch a selection of premium bag-in-box wine - says shoppers are looking for "practical and environmental alternatives to glass bottles".

Indeed, bag-in-box wine can stay fresh in the fridge for four to six weeks.

Perhaps it's time to open the tap, and give it a try.