On the up · 28 July 2017

A wine startup reinventing the bottle shape to disrupt the drinks industry

Garçon Wines’ bottle shape makes it easier to deliver, store and retail its products

To impact on an established wine industry, Joe Revell and Santiago Navarro recognised that innovation had to be practical but show respect to tradition. With a unique bottle shape, their wine startup looks to have found the perfect formula.

Garçon wines was launched in the wake of an international six-part TV series for entrepreneurs, which saw its founders walk away with a £20,000 prize. Starting out as a mail order wine club, the business has since diversified to a range of channels in numerous countries.

Business Advice sat down with the co-founders to find out about early growth, future ambitions and more about that innovative bottle shape.

  1. Who are you and what’s your business?

We are Joe Revell and Santiago Navarro, co-founders of Garçon Wines. Our innovative wine startup has invented the world’s first full-sized wine bottles that look like the real deal but are both strong enough and light enough to go through the postal system, and thin enough to fit through letterboxes.

We’re innovating in wine and making wine more accessible, ensuring delivery is totally hassle-free. We’re also using the space and weight saving benefits of these innovative wine bottles to improve drinks retailing and storage in other sales or distribution channels.

  1. What was fundamental in terms of getting started?

The key thing to get our business going was to get our bottles prototyped so we could show consumers, partners and other stakeholders what the bottles looked like in reality.

People didn’t understand our vision from drawings, but once we were able to get samples made and shown in person, the idea suddenly took off at a faster and bigger pace than we’d have expected.

  1. How has your wine startup grown since foundation?

We started off as a UK wine club focused on home delivery through the letterbox. We’re now offering our bottles across a diverse range of channels and in many different countries. Our wine bottles have proved more efficient for retailing, gifting, transport and travel, as well as for home delivery.

Wine startup
The bottle is the first of its kind to fit through a letterbox

Therefore, our growth has been both multichannel and multinational.

  1. What do you attribute that growth to?

The public get what we’re doing. We’re innovation with a purpose and which is relevant. We’re innovative whilst respecting tradition.

Consumers could easily see themselves serving our wine bottles on their dinner tables whilst benefiting from the ease of delivery, easier storage and whilst making it another talking point over a meal.

All existing wine packaging formats that sought to replace the glass bottle (such as bag-in-box) were something consumers kept hidden away. We’ve changed this making the bottle a point of interest.

  1. Can you tell us more about the unique bottle shape and how important it is to the business?

Our bottle shapes are an adaptation on the two most common and popular shapes for still wine bottles – Bordeaux and Burgundy. It was fundamental that we conformed as closely to the traditional wine bottle shapes whilst adapting them to be easier to deliver, store and retail.

Our unique bottle shape is the DNA of our business – its importance is paramount.

  1. What are the biggest challenges of a subscription-based model?

We’re no longer focused on offering a subscription wine club ourselves. We’re now offering our bottles to those who already have a customer base and who can easily use our bottles and offer the efficient home delivery.

  1. What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Coming up with the invention of the bottles, getting the bottles manufactured to the specifications we required and securing IP protection in 35 countries for these bottles.

  1. Where do you want to see your wine startup in five years’ time?

We aim to be to wine packaging what Tetra Pak was for dairy packaging. That’s our five-year goal.

  1. What advice would you give a new food or drink brand starting out?

From our experience, we’d recommend producing samples or prototypes of your product. An idea on paper, a drawing, recipe or similar is very hard, nearly impossible, for others without the dream and vision to connect with.

However, as soon as the product can be placed into someone’s hands, then your business concept is clearly understood. Also, if you’re innovating, ensure the innovation is meaningful and relevant. The innovation should be innovation with a purpose, not just for innovation’s sake.

Finally, ensure you have a distinct USP and that your value proposition is easily understood.

  1. Who would be your ideal business partner?

We’re ideal co-founders as it is. We’re different, complementary and fully understand each other.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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