Single-serve wine boxes raise watchdogs' eyebrows

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Canandaigua Wine Co.'s new "grab and go" red wine sangria, marketed in a easy-open Tetra Pak most familiar from kids' juice boxes, is raising concern among public interest watchdogs.

The half-liter Almaden Red Sangria container, octagonal-shaped and about the size of a large can of soda or beer, is designed to be easy to clutch. The package holds about two-thirds of a traditional-size bottle of wine and is intended for one or two servings.

Although clearly labeled as a red wine drink and sporting a picture of a wine glass on the front, the package design also features a lively fresh fruit pattern which some fear might be confused with kids' fruit drinks.

"I wouldn't want this to be misconstrued about what it is," said Wendy Hamilton, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, adding the container "clearly is not a single serving." She also was concerned that the packaging innovation-a pull-tab that does not require a corkscrew or even a twist cap to open-is legal in 14 states that do not ban open alcohol containers in cars.

George Hacker, director of Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said he was concerned the packing innovation is an attempt to increase alcohol consumption, "which by itself raises substantial public health issues." Mr. Hacker said the product is "another one of these cross-over drinks with a fruit-flavored blend intended to appeal to novice drinkers." The convenience packaging further proves alcohol beverage marketers are employing a strategy attempting to "blur the line between alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages," he said, as alcoholic beverages are compete "with non-alcoholic beverages for a share of the stomach and a share of the wallet."

Diana Pawlik, brand manager, Almaden Vineyards, said critics "have a lot of more reasonable products to make that argument for." She said it is up to retailers to be certain only individuals of age are buying the alcoholic beverage. "We hope people wouldn't drink it in a car," she added.

She said the Sangria drink contains 9.5% alcohol vs. 12% to 14% for wine. It carries a suggested retail price of $3.49.

Ms. Pawlik said the packaging innovation was three years in the making and is "perfect for one person on a lazy afternoon or two people." While Tetra packaging has caught on throughout the world, the wine package is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., Ms. Pawlik said.

Already, with marketing consisting of in-store point of purchase displays, retail chains from Wal-Mart to 7-Eleven have ordered product in excess of Canandaigua's original annual goal of sale of 250,000 individual packages, she said.

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