Vineyards looking to take advantage of the current growth in the sales of wine in cans should make time for a chat with Northfleet-based Storefast Solutions.

Co-packing experts Storefast Solutions have decades of experience in packaging drinks in can and ‘bag-in-box’ formats and are increasingly working with vineyards across the South East to create customer-focused, sustainable products.

“We are seeing strong growth in canned wine in particular, as consumers are increasingly valuing the convenience, the sustainability and the quality that the product represents, particularly amongst younger people,” explained Trevor Murphy, Storefast Solutions’ head of business development.

“Aluminium cans are infinitely recyclable, and the carbon footprint of a can is smaller than that of a glass bottle, which is good news for businesses keen to show their green credentials.”

Established 30 years ag,o Storefast Solutions has an impressive track record in the industry and works with a number of blue-chip companies. Winners in the breakthrough performance category of multinational alcoholic beverage company Diageo PLC’s 2022 awards, it is seeing consistent growth.

“We were one of the few companies to grow during the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers who could no longer go to pubs or restaurants switched to drinking at home,” Trevor explained. “We doubled in size over lockdown and, more importantly, have continued to grow since.”

Lockdown also contributed to the steady rise in the popularity of wine in cans, a market that experts predict will grow from its current global value of £158.4 million to £428.4 million by 2028. In the UK, sales soared from £2.5 million in 2018 to £10.7 million in 2020.

A report from Can Makers, the trade body representing drinks can manufacturers in the UK, pointed out recently that “the variety of premium drinks in cans has increased dramatically and the number of cans shipped in the UK has recorded double digit growth”.

Chairman Simon Gresty said: “As more wine brands adopt and even launch exclusively in cans, consumer confidence in the quality of wine in a can is rising, underpinned by the high-quality offerings from brands that have worked hard to create a premium position in their market. He pointed to benefits including lower packaging and distribution costs, a more accessible price point and the ability to sell in smaller quantities.

A similar report into the growing popularity of wine in cans in Food & Beverage Magazine referred to their “convenience, portability, sustainability and coolness”.

Storefast Solution’s 100,000 sq ft of premises is close to the M25 and the London Gateway, which is ideal for imports from Europe and for London. Alongside modern manufacturing and packaging machinery, it houses 70,000 sq ft of bonded warehouse, allowing useful flexibility over duty payments.

The business was set up 30 years ago by Sharon and John Kirby, initially offering a storage facility along with blending and compounding for fruit juice and cocktail distributors.

Around 15 years ago the company moved away from storage and focused on compounding and blending, supplying juice, cocktail and hard seltzer compounds which customers then dilute, package and sell, a process which cuts distribution costs dramatically by avoiding the cost of transporting water.

When son Nick Kirby took over as Managing Director, he continued the move towards blending – a part of the business that sees Storefast Solutions producing 350,000 litres of product a week – while also increasing the company’s packaging operations in ‘bag-in-box’, keg and can formats.

The company’s steady growth, mostly via referrals from satisfied customers, means it now employs around 50 staff and has a turnover of some £7m. On the blending side it has supplied probably the UK’s biggest household name in soft drinks for around a decade.

“We have established a good reputation in the industry and we invest in the best equipment,” explained Trevor. “We are renowned for our food safety measures, the quality of our product and for meeting regulatory standards. We are British Retail Consortium (BRC) accredited to AA and have never had a product recall. Our experience levels are second to none. New customers often come to us because they realise that we can improve on the service they are currently receiving.

“One customer asked for help because their fruit cocktail drink, packaged elsewhere, was inconsistent. The earlier products had lots of fruit because it had sunk to the bottom of the tank, while later batches had very little. We re-engineered the process to incorporate a way of keeping the product moving while it was filling, so the distribution of fruit was even.”

Storefast Solutions can also blend, usually to the customer’s recipe, although team members such as Technical Director Tim Copeman, with his 40-plus years in the trade, are happy to advise. Also well experienced is Quality Manager Elizabeth Smith-Mensah, who has worked in the industry for 28 years.

The company’s impressive line-up of equipment includes a new, fully automated ‘bag in a box’ line that can fill 4,000 litres an hour, while it also has an aseptic packing line and an off-site frozen produce store. There are no minimum order quantities and Storefast Solutions is able to collect wine from the vineyard. 

“The market for wine in alternatives to the 75cl bottle is growing rapidly and we have the skills, expertise and know-how to help vineyards take advantage of the change,” Trevor concluded.