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A toast to wine pack innovation

Phil Hurst is CEO of Healdsburg, CA-based Truett-Hurst, Inc., a wine company that in the last couple of years has introduced several new products in unique packaging formats: a paper-wrapped bottle, a molded paper bottle, and a square glass bottle, among them.

Pw 60396 Phil Hurst

Packaging World:
How would you describe the state of innovation in the wine industry? 

Phil Hurst:
I think the big retailers are driving most of the innovation. Innovating in wine is difficult and expensive, and if left to their own devices, I think big wine companies would prefer to remain static. Small companies like us cannot compete head to toe with the big guys, but we CAN out-innovate them.

Why is innovation important in this category?
Because consumers are smart. They are exposed to amazing technology every day via the Internet, and they understand that the world is innovating—they expect it in wine. We are happy to oblige, but it’s not easy. Pioneers do often take a few arrows…

Where do you find your inspiration for wine packaging innovation?
You would be amazed. Almost every day we look at a traditional bottle of wine, imagine a tasting experience, and think about how we can innovate in both the package and the product.

What are the advantages of being a smaller company in terms of developing and launching new innovations?
Decision making. I was part of a huge spirits group, which was damn good by the way, but making decisions about major new product or packaging initiatives took years sometimes. We are extraordinarily flexible and hard charging.

How does cost factor into the equation? 
Cost always factors into the equation because at the end of the day we must be profitable to continue to grow and innovate. That said, we are willing to invest significantly in new technology and innovation. So far our concepts have been wonderfully successful, but it will take some time to get a return on our investment.

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