Now that we are 18 months into the Covid crisis, with the Delta variant no doubt extending its length, it is helpful to recognize some of the positive innovation that has occurred. As John F. Kennedy said, “In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.”
One wine company that has made astounding progress in sales and innovation during Covid is Coravin. With a mission to change the way the world experiences wine, Coravin technology allows wine lovers to extract a glass of wine from a bottle and then replace the bottle in their cellar or on the counter for later consumption. Due to the argon gas that is injected into the bottle with a slender needle, the wine can be preserved for up to 10 years.
In an interview with Greg Lambrecht, the inventor and founder of Coravin, he stated, “Our only competitor is the person who says – I always finish the whole wine bottle.”
An avid wine collector, Lambrecht invented Coravin when his wife was pregnant and couldn’t share a bottle of wine with him. Capitalizing on his training as a surgeon, he repurposed a surgical needle to extract wine from a wine bottle without removing the cork while still preserving the wine. The company launched in 2011, and since then has sold more than 150 million Coravin Systems, priced between $99 and $500 each.
Sales of Coravin Products Soar During Covid
Since Covid, sales of Coravin have soared. As people were forced to stay at home, many decided to treat themselves to finer wines and/or raid their wine cellars, but they didn’t want to drink the whole bottle, so they bought a Coravin. Even after restaurants re-opened, many people still continue to use their Coravin.
“People want to have a nice glass of wine at home,” said Lambrecht. “Our online sales at Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon have been very healthy.”
The advent of virtual wine tastings also caused more people to reach for a Coravin. This included consumers, as well as professionals in the wine trade. Indeed, the use of so many Coravins by wine critics during Covid gave rise to the Coravingate dilemma, whereby critics discussed whether it was ethnical or not to divulge they used a Coravin in their tasting evaluations.
Coravin sales in Asia and Europe have also been sharply on the rise over the past year. “We are in 60 countries,” reported Lambrecht. “Sales have been up dramatically in China since the advent of Covid. We sold more units in one month in China this year that we did in 6 months the previous year.”
“Sales in Europe are growing in double digit percentages,” he said, “and Australia has taken off. There are only 24 million people in Australia, but they all seem to drink coffee and wine.”
In addition to working very closely with their online retail partners, Coravin also launched a series of Instagram videos showing how their products worked. This increased social media presence seemed to resonate with consumers, which contributed to increased online sales.
Four New Coravin Products Introduced
Probably one of the best silver linings of the Covid shut-down for Coravin was the chance for their R&D department to hole up in the lab and focus on new product development.
“Our customers are constantly giving us suggestions for new products and enhancements,” said Lambrecht, “and the pandemic gave us a chance to take a step back and breathe. We had time to really look at the needs of the customer, and bring products to market that match specific unmet needs.”
From this process, Coravin has introduced 4 new products in the past several months:
1) Pivot – This $99 product was designed from the insight that not everyone needs to preserve every bottle for years. Restaurant owners wanted a Coravin that poured wine into a glass more quickly and was easy to train staff how to use. Since restaurants go through wine much quicker, they only needed it to preserve wine up to 30 days. It is also very popular with home consumers who only want to extract a glass of wine from the same bottle every few days, but keep it fresh for a month.
2) Pivot Aerator – an optional attachment to quickly add air to younger wines that would generally need years of aging. It makes the wine more approachable when the customer is ready to drink it, rather than having to cellar it for years. Popular with both the trade and consumers.
3) Coravin Sparkling – a special Coravin System for sparkling and Champagne wines. The system pairs a universal-fit stopper with a hand-held charging unit to maintain the carbonation level between pours. So a glass of bubbly remains fresh and effervescent for up to 2 weeks.
4) Coravin Pure Pro Capsules: a larger argon gas capsule that restaurants have been requesting for years, so they don’t have to change the capsules as frequently. Contains 30% more Argon gas, increasing the number of glasses that can be poured per capsule.
“We are very excited to launch these new products,” said Lambrecht. “I have been wanting to work on them for years, especially Coravin Sparkling, and Covid gave us the breathing space to make it happen.”
Giving Back to Restaurant Workers
Coravin believes in sharing their success with others, especially on-premise trade establishments like restaurants and bars that were hurt so badly during the Covid shut-down. Though the company’s initial strategy had been to sell primarily to trade customers, they had switched to a 50/50 trade and direct consumer strategy in 2018.
But they didn’t forget their trade customers. In April of 2020 they hosted the World’s Largest Virtual Wine Tasting benefiting the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund. To continue showing its support for its restaurant partners, Coravin worked with a variety of other organizations including Brands x Better and Chef Boulud’s Hand-in-Hand Foundation. Through a combination of cash and donated products, Coravin donated more than $100,000 to support the trade in 2020.
“The trade has been crushed by this (Covid). We try to do what we can to make their lives better,” said Lambrecht