Where there's a wine, there's a way

FIRST came plastic wine bottles, and now a Melbourne entrepreneur hopes drinkers will embrace individual portions of sauvignon blanc or rose in disposable cups.

The ready-to-drink market has been hugely successful for beer and spirit-based products but has struggled to convince wine drinkers to abandon traditional serving methods.

But Georgia Beattie is hoping to change that with her company, Lupe, which since launching last November is already generating steady business at festivals and events, and was named by BRW magazine as one of its 10 start-ups to watch in 2012.

Ms Beattie, 25, collaborated with British entrepreneur James Nash, who had developed a single-serve glass of wine made from recyclable plastic and topped with a tamper-proof seal.

Ms Beattie says Lupe sales are predicted to hit $500,000 - made up of contract fill and Lupe-branded products - in their first year in the Australian market.

Total wine sales in Australia increased from $3.1 billion to $3.2 billion in the past year, but it is not the easiest time to be a start-up in the wine industry.

Last month's National Australia Bank Agribusiness Rural Commodities Wrap warned that the Australian market was suffering from falling local wine sales, higher import penetration and a glut that continued to hamper prices and returns.

However, Ms Beattie hopes that by aiming at ''aspirational Gen Y drinkers'' Lupe can shake up the ''very conservative'' wine industry and make wine more accessible.

''My generation is very open-minded and so Lupe has played into that; we are open to new packaging forms and we go out and listen to music at these great big festivals and thousands of people are there and we socialise outdoors.

''Wine has not kept up with those trends and has not got a package solution like beer and spirits, which have done very well.''

Ms Beattie's family are winemakers and run Swords Select wine stores, so it was important to her that the wine Lupe used was the same quality as that sold in bottles (Lupe wines have a shelf life of 12 months.) She says: ''My dad would throttle me if I didn't put a good wine in there.''

At the moment, the product is only sold online, at selected events and through Swords Select stores. However, Ms Beattie hopes Lupe wines will succeed where other wine products have failed.

Barokes Wine launched wine in a can in 2003. While the product has been successful in Asia, it did not catch on in Australia and is now only sold here through the Barokes website.

The sales and marketing director at Barokes, Irene Stokes, says: ''Australians are very good inventors but, unfortunately, slow adopters, so the packaging is not something that Australians have picked up on.

''It is quite a traditional market where we are used to consuming from a bottle with glasses and everything that goes with it, whereas overseas the markets are more receptive to alternative packaging formats.''

Wine marketing researcher at the University of Adelaide Business School, Dr Steve Goodman, believes wine served in single-serve plastic glasses can succeed where wine in a can did not.

''It is a long stretch for us to drink wine out of a can,'' he says. ''I mean, what are you actually going to drink it out of? You still need to pour it into a glass.''

In contrast, Dr Goodman says Lupe kept within the tradition of serving wine in a glass while addressing the problem of accessibility.

Although he does not think this new form of packaging wine will cheapen the industry, he says many people ''will not drink wine out of a plastic container full stop and I put myself in that category''.

''But for someone [who] is new to wine, to have to commit to buying a whole bottle of wine is a fair bit in terms of not just finance but also having to drink a whole bottle of wine. This product changes that.''