Beer vs Wine - Does size matter?
296ml vs. 355 ml = 16.6% difference
Words: Henry Yuen

I was helping my son the other day in his new home with house chores. After couple hours of labouring work we decided to take a short break. He handed me a can of cold beer - the best possible drink for such a sweaty moment. Once the can was put in my hand it felt weird --- something was off here. What could it be? I looked at  the colour and the label which seemed normal. But when I raised the can to my mouth to have another sip, ah, I realized it's the grip that felt differently. So I studied it a bit closer. As it turned out, the can was a tat skinnier compared to the normal can size we are accustomed to -  we are talking about 296ml vs 355ml. While the thinner one allows a better hold and an easier grip, the volume difference of more than 15% less should not be easily overlooked. But why the reduction?

While the need to address the profit margin affected by rising production costs, there are always concerns. To prevent possible negative impacts due to consumers' resistance towards price increase, yet there is a certain price bar consumers are not willing to go over. Producers have to eliminate price fluctuation and avoid going over that sensitive price point. They have to come up with smart strategies to retain good profit margin, alternative size and volume is perhaps one of the solution. Shrinking package size and the volume of the product without making a fuss about it is appears to be a smart progression.

Let's take a look at the Dollar Store scenario.  With the usual price tags of one to few dollars, items in the store do appear cheaper at first glance. More often than not, the volume of these items are comparatively less that those sold at regular stores at a higher cost, meaning that consumers are not saving any at the end. The truth is, not everyone looks at the fine prints when dealing with dollar items. Basic instinct and the merit of convenience still play an important role here. However, is it fair to apply the same scenario when it comes to narrower beer cans that contains less?

Ice-cold beer appeal

Nowadays, beer comes in 500ml, 355ml, 341ml or 330ml; and the newly added 296ml. Obviously, different price tags are attached. To be fair to the consumer, the the price tag on the 296ml cans is perhaps slightly less than the 355ml ones, a somewhat wallet-friendlier appeal for the matter. For most beer lovers who grab the usual brands or those who treasure that sensation icy-cold beer emits when entering the mouth, is the difference of 59ml significant?

Beer-drinking to many, is as casual as reaching for a bottle of cold water or soda, so a thinner bottle or can may not necessary feel differently. The grip is in fact insignificant to the pleasure the liquid brings forward. Nevertheless, in the wine-drinking arena, it is a very different story.

750ml bottle sizes - a tradition in the wine world

Wine culture is built on strong tradition which does not allow changes  to take place easily, even when the pressure of the profit perspective is present. The standard 750ml wine bottle size has been adopted by the whole wide world for a long, long time is a case in point. Fortunately,  this simple yet imperative bottle-size tradition has not changed and will never so over time no matter the economic pressure, conditions and trends. The word “tradition” comes from Latin meaning “something handed over”. The wine world is strong on this aspect in that generation after generation strives on preserving the virtue of respecting and conserving old practices.

Yes, there are half bottles, one litre size bottles, magnum and other mega size bottles but they are not common for day to day consumption. You may see wine bottles in various shapes and special designs, but you don’t see wine in a 900ml or 650ml bottle. Dessert wines do come in half-sized bottles but only a few wineries apply this 375ml bottles in their normal wine line-ups, since the predominant standard size is still the 750ml; that wineries in all corners of the world are using and quite contented with. Wineries do not adjust the volume by giving less wine and use a smaller bottle in order to keep the same price level. In the wine world, this strategy is risky, quite likely, a disastrous one.

It is almost a sacrilege not to put wine in 750ml bottles - an upheld standard of tradition and is seldom found throughout the rest of the universal business world. Thanks to this strong belief in tradition, no winery use other sized bottle for their wine just to fit into a particular price range the competitive market may be demanding.