On July 20, 2022, the latest innovation in the wine industry dropped onto the market. Wine in a box, or rather, a 100% recyclable cylinder, launched as Juliet Wine. What first grabbed my attention, aside from the unique format, was the branding and design. Gorgeous rich colors in butter yellow and cobalt blue, eye-catching gold lettering, abstract swipes, all proclaiming an environmental twist? As a wine expert and reviewer, I try not to buy wine based on pretty labels, but I couldn’t resist the visual allure of Juliet.
I contacted the company for more information, letting them know I first saw their wines in an Instagram campaign. We ended up chatting about the background of founders and co-CEOs, Allison Luvera and Lauren De Niro Pipher and their inspiration for the product. I asked for a sample, skeptical of its good looks and targeted social media marketing.
The cylinder of Pinot Noir arrived. I took it to a Thanksgiving event and let everyone pour themselves a glass from the spout. The wine sits in a recyclable plastic bladder, like a traditional bag in box wine. The packaging, which holds 1.5 liters, has a carbon footprint that’s 84 percent lower than an equivalent two glass bottles.
I kept an eye on their facial expressions but paused for an accounting of my own reaction. Delicious! The Pinot Noir tasted of red fruit and spice with elegant satin tannins and a dry, fresh finish. Four of us drained the container before we sat down to dinner, then broke it down for paper and plastic recycling, using the included prepaid, recycled envelope. Voilà.
I followed up with founders Luvera and De Niro Pipher to learn more about their background, vision, and production experience for Forbes.
The following interview was conducted over email and has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How did the two of you meet?
We’ve been friends for nearly two decades! We met in college and became close when we were in our 20s, both working in fashion in New York City – Allison in marketing for publications like Vogue and InStyle and Lauren in PR at rag & bone. It was a moment in time. We were out and about downtown, attending the same parties, meeting great people, and that energy was inspiring. That love of fashion stayed with us both as we pursued other career paths, and ultimately influenced the design-forward aesthetic of Juliet.
When did the idea of developing a wine brand occur and what was the timeline from idea to commitment?
We knew we wanted to start a business that put sustainability at the forefront of a product category we both loved. Wine authentically made sense because we’re both avid wine drinkers who are passionate about innovation in the category. When we discovered that glass bottles and their transport are the largest contributors to wine’s carbon footprint—and a huge barrier to furthering sustainability—we knew that was something we wanted to solve for.
We became obsessed with the idea of reinventing boxed wine. Our mission was to create something so innovative and luxurious that it would transcend the category entirely, breaking down the negative stigma many have against it. After we dreamed up the idea, it took 18 months to bring the product to life, much of that time spent working with product engineers to develop our proprietary Eco-Magnum™ form factor (with a patent pending).
Were you both employed elsewhere at the start of the project? If so, did you quit your jobs to focus on Juliet?
When we came together to start Juliet, Allison was finishing up an Executive MBA program at Wharton and Lauren was working in luxury real estate. As soon as we had our first prototype in hand, we knew we were on to something special and made a commitment to focus 100% of our efforts on building Juliet.
Why did you decide to tackle the carbon footprint as your point of differentiation? Tell us about the box and recycling opportunities?
Our mission from day one has been to make the wine industry more sustainable by creating pioneering products that are eco-friendly without compromising quality or design. We believe it is the responsibility of all businesses to step up and do their part for the planet, especially in agriculture-based industries like wine, which serve as a bellwether for the negative impacts of climate change. Our vision is to shift the culture of everyday wine drinking away from glass bottles, a small behavior change that will deliver an outsize reduction in carbon emissions for the industry.
Juliet’s inner and outer packaging is fully recyclable except for the rope handle. We also offer a take-back scheme to help ensure the materials don’t end up in landfill, since the inner wine pouch is classified as a No. 7 plastic which not all municipalities accept. All wine shipments include a prepaid, recycled envelope allowing customers to return their empty wine pouches to us, after which we send them to TerraCycle to be safely recycled.
The branding, logo, and box are gorgeous. Who did you work with and what did your vision boards look like?
We collaborated with two LA-based, female designers to develop our brand and label design. The custom illustrations are inspired by the distinct terroir of Central Coast, California vineyards.
The branding and color palette are inspired by nature and interior design in some of our favorite destinations on the Mediterranean Sea like Portofino, Saint Tropez, Capri, Porto Ercole, Ramatuelle and Panarea. From terracotta tiles to beautifully upholstered chairs to sage green flora climbing up a blush-painted stucco wall, the mood boards were endless, and we’re proud of the outcome.
The Juliet experience represents an escape from everyday life—the ideal, accessible indulgence. Even if you’re simply enjoying a glass of wine at home at the end of a long day, the design and branding were created in hopes that it might transport you to a place of stillness, luxury, and enjoyment.
How did manage to source good quality private label wine and will you have the same sources moving forward? Where is the Pinot from? What about the Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Rosé?
We had a very specific vision for the house style of wine we wanted to create, which is low-intervention and reminiscent of European village wines. We partnered with a talented winemaking team at a Certified California Sustainable Winery in Santa Ynez to bring it to life. The grapes are first chosen based on terroir and sourced from some of Central Coast California’s most renowned AVA vineyards. The ensuing winemaking approach honors the fruit by utilizing low intervention and zero artificial additives in the process, and the final product contains minimal ingredients which are transparently stated on the label for an entire paradigm shift on conventional bottles.
All wines are made in our Certified California Sustainable Winery in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA. We sourced our grapes from the following AVAs for each variety:
● 2021 Pinot Noir – Edna Valley AVA
● 2021 Sauvignon Blanc – Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA
● 2021 Grenache Rosé – Edna Valley AVA and Los Olivos AVA
What has been the consumer and trade reaction to Juliet thus far? How hard or easy has it been to get shelf placements and in which markets are the wines currently available?
The response to Juliet has been overwhelmingly positive. Consumers are immediately drawn to the design-forward, elevated packaging, and they appreciate the superior quality of the wine. Knowing that they are lowering their carbon footprint by choosing Juliet is a big bonus. As for behavior, we are seeing a lot of Juliet at outdoor gatherings and holiday celebrations. People view it as a more fun and aesthetically intriguing alternative to arriving at a party with a traditional bottle of wine.
Since launch, high-end wine stores have been hugely supportive of our mission. In all of our existing accounts, Juliet is displayed alongside super premium bottled wines like Whispering Angel and Duckhorn, rather than placed in the traditional boxed wine section.
Juliet will soon be available in over 50 select retailers in New York, Florida and California. It has also been embraced by restaurants and bars, especially those with outdoor seating (thanks to the glass-free format, extended shelf life and attractive design).
Wildflower Farms is serving our Pinot Noir fireside at their Upstate New York property this winter; Farmshop Brentwood is offering the Pinot Noir, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc to their Brentwood guests; and The Bath Club in Miami is pouring the Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc to their beach and poolside members.
At $45, do you think your price point is competitive for the “boxed” wine market? It’s not really boxed wine, in my opinion, but since consumers may have trouble discerning the difference until tasting it, how do you handle that leap of faith?
Juliet is truly unique in that it bridges the gap between boxed and bottled wine. Customers and retailers view Juliet as a climate-conscious, convenient alternative to Super Premium bottled wines just as much as they view it as an upgrade to traditional boxed wines that retail at very low prices. In that context, an Eco-Magnum™ of Juliet is priced at a value since the customer is getting the equivalent of two bottles of high-quality, handmade wine for $45.99, which lasts in the refrigerator for up to six weeks after opening.
As we host frequent in-store tastings in our current retail markets (NY, CA, FL), we’ve seen that the consumer is first drawn in by the packaging design, then impressed by the quality of the wine itself, and always pleased to hear of the environmental benefits. 9 ½ times out of 10, they walked into the store intending to purchase a bottle of $20-$30 wine, and walked out with an Eco-Magnum™of Juliet.
Will you move to even larger formats? Jeroboams? 😊
Juliet is leading a boxed wine revolution and we are only getting started! Our mission is to make the wine industry more sustainable by creating pioneering products that are eco-friendly without compromising quality or design. In that spirit, we are absolutely considering larger formats, other alternative packaging styles, more varieties, and limited-edition products – anything that will help shift the culture of wine drinking away from glass bottles. We are already working on some of these exciting innovations for launch in 2023.
What has been the biggest challenge to getting a new wine label created, marketed, and sold?
Our biggest challenge has been that nothing like Juliet has ever existed before so there was no path to follow, we had to forge our own. Juliet was an idea we had in our heads, and through hard work, perseverance and some creative problem solving, we were able to will it into existence.
It’s been thrilling to see how quickly consumers have embraced the concept, not only purchasing Juliet but enthusiastically sharing it on social media and by word of mouth to family and friends.
How did you fund your project? Did you take on investors, self-fund, work with family and friends?
To fund our business, we raised capital in an oversubscribed Seed Round, which included investments from friends, family, angels, and funds. Juliet’s potential has been recognized by key investors, including Jonathan Neman (CEO & Founder of Sweetgreen) and Leora Kadisha Neman, Lauren Bosworth (CEO & Founder of Love Wellness), Dick Costolo (Former CEO of Twitter), Kurt Seidensticker (Founder, Vital Proteins), Brooke Wall (Founder, The Wall Group), and Anderson Family Brands.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs, especially women, for launching a business?
Start by focusing on your “Why.” Make sure you know what unmet need you are addressing, how you are radically improving an existing product or service offering and identify a target audience to serve. The more crystalized your vision, the more conviction and success you’ll have in pitching it to others and building a community around you (whether that be investors, employees, consumers, subscribers, or all the above).
Anything else you want to add?
Juliet offers consumers style, substance, and sustainability in an unlikely place: boxed wine. With an uncompromising commitment to sustainability, quality, and design, Juliet is overcoming the negative stigma against boxed wine and convincing stylish, influential people to embrace the format for the first time. With a mission-driven focus on reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, Juliet is a category-defining brand that is igniting a culture shift in everyday wine drinking.