There are about 7,000 wineries in the U.S., but the market is dominated by just seven, which claim 80 percent of the retail shelf space and leave all the rest to fight it out for the remaining 20 percent.

And yet, even with those strong statistics, the wine industry is an incredibly conservative, risk-averse market. Wines are either merchandised by region or variety. Labels tend to be three inches square and printed on paper. There is very little innovation.

Southwest Wine & Spirits is a brand developer and distributor in New Mexico with a fresh approach to wine marketing. It believes the wine market is ripe for disruption and wants to make wine buying more enjoyable and less intimidating for consumers. On crowded wine shelves, packaging, it believes, should be more than simply functional. It should be fun.

The La Catrina brand is Southwest’s response: Six Californian wines, sold and merchandised as a set, all packaged in a “Day of the Dead”-inspired wedding theme created by a local artist. It is an attempt to create a new wine brand, targeting a younger, more urban market.

The six-pack includes the best sellers Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the lesser well-known Moscato and Pinot Grigio. Rather than stick with the safe Chardonnay alone, customers are encouraged to try new wine varieties. Also, bundled together, the packaging creates an arresting in-store visual.

This packaging project was only made possible by digital print. Working with a leading digital printing technology and flexible packaging specialist, Southwest is able to generate cost-effective, large-scale print runs featuring these unique designs as bottle shrink sleeves. The artistic wraps are digitally printed on the HP Indigo WS6600 ( There are no tooling costs or costly print errors, and the entire exterior of the bottle is wrapped with colorful imagery – not just a small affixed label. 

Through its learnings in producing the La Catrina brand, Southwest Wine has seen how HP digital print solutions allow it to utilize the maximum amount of real estate on its beverage bottles to create shelf appeal as well as let it introduce new designs and wine varieties quickly.

“Digital printing enables a user to eliminate costly and time-consuming analog steps associated with conventional printing,” says Gary Bernier, strategic business and brand development, HP Indigo Labels & Packaging, Americas.

“It allows the user to stay in the digital world up to the time when ink is applied to the substrate — no plates or cylinders to make or mount, and no time or materials getting the plates into register. Digital printing can print the same graphics over and over just like conventional printing, but it also allows the user to stream a wide variety of graphical content so every label, shrink sleeve, folding carton or flexible package can be unique effortlessly.”

Advancements in digital printing in just the last 12 months are propelled even further by the HP Indigo 20000 that can produce a range of commercial products including wider-width flexible packaging. Brands aren’t limited anymore by a 13-inch web width, and new digital technologies have taken color control and consistency to an even higher level, advancing package design and quality.

La Catrina was initially launched in New Mexico and Nevada in 2014, and Southwest sold 80,000 bottles in the first two months. Since July 2015, it has been launched nationwide in the U.S.

More than that, its success has allowed Southwest to dream big. A second brand, Savage Vines, is being readied, featuring new shrink sleeve designs for a single Chardonnay. Again, this creates an eye-catching visual display in-store. The aim is for consumers to see these new designs as collectibles.

Southwest Wine plans to extend the concept next year by inviting customers to create their own label art, having an open vote on the best designs and printing the top ten. Digital print allows the brand to tailor the production and manufacturing rarity or rerun the most popular designs.

“The versatility of HP Indigo digital presses allows users to produce a wide range of package decoration,” says Bernier. “With the ability to print on substrates as thin as 10 micron films and as thick as 24 point folding carton stock, HP Indigo digital presses provide the flexibility businesses need today.”

 Stepping in to leverage this type of technology is easier than some may think. More and more brands are seeing that digital printing is becoming one of the most powerful marketing tools, with the ability to personalize their brands for consumers and drive growth, right at the shelf.