“We want to bring the joy of drinking Italian wine to the world, in the most sustainable way possible,” says Rob Malin, co-founder of When in Rome. Founded in 2016, When in Rome sells Italian craft wine - in boxes, cans and now paper bottles.
“Traditionally, the majority of wine bottles are made from virgin glass. And although glass is recyclable, it has a melting point of 1600 degrees celsius. This means it takes much more energy to recycle glass, compared to aluminium or paper,” says Rob, 45.
“Our paper wine bottle has a carbon footprint that is around six times lower than a glass wine bottle - 39% of the wine industry’s CO2 emissions globally come from glass bottles. Unless you’re keeping wine in your cellar for your grandchildren to drink one day, you don’t need to keep wine in glass bottles,” he says.
“Italians buy wine in a very sustainable way - they take a reusable container to a vineyard, fill it up and pay for what they have. This is where the name comes from: When in Rome, drink as the Italians do.”
When in Rome is a Starling business customer based in Gloucestershire. Rob has five full-time employees and works closely with his two co-founders, Andrea Marchesi and Lorenzo Canali. The company sells wine online and to outlets in the UK, Canada and Finland. The wine is sourced from five Italian producers, many of which are family-run and have been making wine for more than 100 years.
Gaining trust from customers
The new paper bottle launched exclusively with Ocado in April 2022. “As one of the UK’s fastest growing national grocery retailers and a business who shares our eco-ethos, we couldn’t have hoped for a better partner,” he says.
“The paper bottle is also an attempt to address the stigma around boxed wine and offer customers a product with a lower price point - our boxes of wine hold the equivalent of three bottles.”
When in Rome has increased sales by working with influencers within the wine industry. “It’s expensive for us to try and educate the consumer about our products and packaging, which is why we lean on trusted voices and outlets.”
In 2019, TV presenter Philip Schofield wrote about When in Rome as part of his column for Waitrose Magazine. Rob got in touch to thank him, something that ultimately resulted in Philip Schofield becoming their key brand ambassador.
Funding growth and development
When in Rome successfully funded the launch of their paper bottles through a crowdfunding campaign. The company raised £300k from an angel investor in 2019 and reached its £500k target for its crowdfunding campaign earlier this year.
“There are a few things that surprised me about crowdfunding. Before we started, I didn’t realise that for Crowdcube and some other platforms, if you don’t achieve your target amount, you don’t get anything. You need a lot of people committed to investing before you go live.”
Rob’s next aims for When in Rome are to expand its range of products, grow its distribution in the UK and enter new markets, such as the USA and Singapore.
Simplicity with Starling
“The single best function for me is the way you can chat to Customer Service through the app. It’s so much better than having to wait on hold or visit a bank branch,” he says.
“I also like being able to manage finances in multiple currencies through one app. Everything is instantaneous. Starling gives me a totally new experience. It’s a world away from dealing with our old high street bank - it’s been such a relief.”