Thinking Inside The Box: Packaging Produces Sales For Waterford Winery

Kent Marrs’ Village Winery and Vineyards near Waterford isn’t your typical Loudoun winery. Here you’ll find ample use of elderberries and fruits as main ingredients, but it is also the packaging of the varied treats that sets the operation apart from its peers.

Village Winery is the first in Loudoun to move entirely to box, rather than bottle, packaging for its wines, fruit teas and syrups.

As Marrs tells his customers, he brings together “Old world winemaking and 21st century wine packaging.”

It has been more than a year since Marrs dispensed with glass bottles and opted for boxes with plastic liners and dispensers—for all his products. The walls of the tasting room are now lined with rows of white boxes bearing the Village Winery and Vineyards logo. So far, Marrs has found box packaging to be safer, cleaner, more convenient and less expensive. Most importantly, the change has resulted in boosted sales, he said. By lowering his production costs significantly, Marrs can offer his boxed wines at lower prices. A 3-liter box of reds, for example, retails for $35. His apple wines retail for $30.

Marrs, whose day job is working in the Loudoun County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure, started his winery in 2005, and quickly expanded to include berry products, grown on the farm, starting with elderberries. He has 10 acres under production.

His products include mostly red French Vinifera wines; fruit wines including apple wine; raspberry apple wine and the Triple Threat apple/raspberry/elderberry wine; and fruit teas, elderberry and aronia (chokeberry); and an elderberry vinaigrette. The sweetness of the elderberry syrup makes for a good topping to pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream, yogurt and desserts. The fruit teas are diluted with water, as is the elderberry syrup, but coming soon will be a line of ready-to-go drinks. “People like the fruit teas, they’re direct, like sodas,” he said. The aronia component has proved to be a successful addition, as it is not as strongly sweet as the elderberry.

That elderberry and aronia are the most popular offerings at the winery, pleasing customers with the lightly astringent taste and the health values of the two berries that are very high in antioxidants. “We’re tapping into people’s desires for healthy drinks,” Marrs said.

The raspberry apple and Triple Threat trio wines also are popular, especially for what Marrs terms a refreshing patio drink. Of his reds, he sells a red blend, petit verdot, cab franc and merlot. New releases include elderberry apple wine coming in May, and, in June, an elderberry and aronia tea with lemon, to give it a slightly tangy finish, in a 24-ounce bottle that makes 4.5 quarts. In October, Marrs plans to release an elderberry and aronia syrup as well as restock the popular elderberry vinaigrette.

Recognizing people’s wish for increasing convenience, late this year Marrs plans to begin introducing 20-ounce ready-to-go drink versions of the teas—elderberry and aronia, elderberry and aronia with lemon, and an elderberry and aronia sport drink. Also in that batch, Marrs plans to introduce a 5-gallon bag-in-box package of elderberry and aronia tea for commercial carbonated beverage dispensers.

“Switching to box packaging has been a boon, I can save so much cost in packaging,” he said. “It’s absolutely airtight, stays fresh—and my sales are up five-fold,” Marrs said.

He said he was surprised to find the wine gets better as it sits in the bag, rather than suffer oxidization as in an opened bottle. “That’s because the bag shrinks as you drink it down, and no air gets in,” Marrs said.

A single box holds the same amount as four bottles, so three boxes equal a case of wine. Using boxes, Marrs can sell reds for the equivalent of $8 a bottle—far less than good local wine sells in glass.

To the best of his knowledge, Marrs is the only Virginia vintner using exclusively boxes and bags. “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s different,” Marrs said of his approach. “What I am doing is still emphasizing the wine-making operation, but I’m putting it in an economical package and making it convenient.”

The winery is located at 40405 Brown’s Lane in Waterford. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 540-882-3780 or email info@villagewineryandvineyard.com.

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 By Margaret Morton Leesuburg

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