The wine aisle at Safeway is about to get more interesting.
Truett-Hurst, the Healdsburg wine company, has inked an agreement with the grocery chain to roll out a line of wines that are wrapped in vibrant, foil-like paper designed to help consumers pair wines with special occasions.
A brand called "Curious Beasts," a red blend geared for Halloween and Day of the Dead, has a dark foil wrapper decorated with skeletons and skulls. Another brand called "Shuck's," suggested for seafood pairings, has fish illustrations and recipes on its foil wrapper and will be sold near the seafood case at Safeway, said Phil Hurst, CEO of Truett-Hurst. A brut rose from the Russian River Valley is designed for occasions like an anniversary or the birth of a child.
"We sell a lot of wine with traditional labels on it, but to really do something revolutionary, we wanted to create something that never has been done before," Hurst said. "Everyone sells wine on terroir, and barrel aging, and grape varieties, and that's fine, but we wanted to sell wine on how people buy wine, and that is the occasion."
Safeway has made a multi-million dollar commitment to sell more than 50,000 cases initially, Hurst said. Truett-Hurst expects to produce 100,000 cases of the wrapped bottles in the first year. Most will retail for $11.99 to $21.99 a bottle, but a premium champagne will sell for $50, Hurst said.
After conducting focus groups with consumers, the company has identified 22 events that trigger wine purchases and is creating wrappers for each of them. The first nine brands in its new "Evocative Wrapped Bottles" line are expected to be on Safeway's shelves starting now, the company said.
The proprietary paper, called Paper Tyger, is tear-resistant and water resistant, and can be reused as a wine bag or recycled like ordinary paper, Hurst said.
Content on the outer foil layer is less restricted by labeling regulations because it's considered packaging, so the company can really tell a story, Hurst said.
Rather than targeting a specific group like Millennials, Hurst said the company believes the product will appeal to multiple generations of wine drinkers.
"I think this cuts across those demographics," Hurst said. "It's edgy, it's fun, it's different, and we know that even the core wine consumer today is looking for those qualities in wine."
Truett-Hurst worked with package designer Kevin Shaw of Stranger & Stranger, company based in New York and London. Shaw has become an equity shareholder in the Healdsburg company and will design new labels for a diverse list of wine marketing channels.
The wine company is a partnership between Hurst, Paul Dolan, his son Heath Dolan, Bill Hambrecht and Daniel Carroll, a venture capitalist who recently poured $2.5 million into the company. It produces about 200,000 cases of wine per year, employs about two-dozen people, and has annual revenues in excess of $15 million, Hurst said.