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Susan DeMatei
August 19, 2014 | Print Design | Susan DeMatei


Well, the guest post on label design certainly generated some passionate discussion! So much so, that my friend and colleague Cindy Deutsch, who knows more than anyone I know about selling wine at retail, agreed to write an adjacent guest post on the importance of case (shipper) design.  So, I’m passing the glass again, and we can hear Cindy’s thoughts on best practices to make sure your case boxes are working as hard for you as your label on the retail sales floor:

I think by now we all understand how important label design is to the success of a wine brand. However, there seems to be less importance attached to shipper (carton) design. First of all, let’s think about who is most likely to see the shipper in all its uncut glory: the guys at the warehouse who load and unload it, the bus boy at the restaurant who unpacks it from the delivery, the stock person at the retail establishment who puts it on the shelf.

There are very few occasions when consumers are going to see the shipper, but those occasions are very important. The most likely time your consumer will see the shipper is at retail when you are lucky enough to have your wine stacked as part of a display. At that point, the top shipper will be cut and sometimes all the cartons are cut. Because your shipper will be cut when it is seen at retail, the shipper should be designed to communicate the key facts about the wine after it is cut.

What are the key facts about the wine you need to communicate in a shopping aisle:

  • Where it’s From?
  • What is the Variety?
  • What is the Brand?

The importance of these three pieces of information will vary depending on your brand. If you are a well-known brand, Brand Name may be most important. If you are an emerging import brand, place of origin and variety may be most important. Regardless of which piece of information is most important, you want to communicate at least two of the three in your shipper art after it is cut.

For wineries that are not attuned to these facts about shipper art, the most common practice is to come up with a nice design and center it on the side of the shipper. What does this mean when it is cut? The bottom “tray” that is left after cutting is blank – that’s right, your shipper is communicating nothing. In the photo below, the wine on the right – Masi – is a classic example of centered shipper art. When cut, the “tray” has no writing on it. Masi is an Italian brand and one could argue that indicating place of origin and brand on the tray could be important information for the consumer.

The brand next to it is from Spain and that is communicated on the shipper tray, but there is room to say more. Probably the varietal – Garnacha – would have been a good addition. The brand on the left – Rusty Boar – has the appellation on the tray = Washington State Wine. However, the font is so small and written in cursive which makes it a weak communication tool. I would argue that variety would be a critical addition to this shipper – especially on the tray.

In contrast to these shippers which are weak communicators, the example of Piper Sonoma is a clear winner when it comes to communicating the key facts for this wine. Even though the shipper has nice art in the center of the shipper, the cut case tray clearly communicates the brand and right above the brand is the varietal. Sonoma Piper is lucky because the appellation is contained in their name, so they don’t need to communicate a third fact. The Piper Sonoma shipper art also demonstrates the advantages of large print and contrast in making your communication jump out to the consumer.


Instruct your designer to design the shipper as a communication tool, not a pretty picture that is centered on the shipper. Design for the cut tray – that is likely the only way a consumer will see your shipper.

About The Author:

Cindy Deutsch is an independent broker specializing in selling wine through Retail Chains with 20 years experience selling wine to the Top Retail Chains in the U.S. She is now consulting to wineries who want to expand their chain business. She can be reached at or 707-480-2262.


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