Meet Jimmy Kawalek, the exclusive US importer and distributor for Transbottle.
Technology is seeping into all the cracks and curves of the world, and the world of wine is no exception. Technology is slowly climbing the grapevine and finding its way in the wine industry.
TransbottleUSA has a simple tagline, which they have proven right numerous times to their clients. “TRAVELING WITH WINE JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT EASIER. JUST LOAD, LOCK & FLY!!”
Today, Kawalek talks all about TransbottleUSA, where it birthed, how he got into the importing and distributing process - and within talks, he shares with us his love of wine, which both Kawalek and Anna seemed to connect widely over.
1. Tell us a little about what TransbottleUSA is.
Transbottle is a series of innovative wine travel products developed in France. Made from shock-resistant, ultra-lightweight, expanded Polypropylene, our carriers are the lightest and easiest way to travel with wine. They are all TSA and Airline approved.
2. What was the inspiration behind Transbottle?
Transbottle was born out of the need for an ultra-durable, reusable and lightweight solution for transporting wine.
3. How did you get started with the project?
Several years back my wife and I were traveling in France on Holiday. After purchasing way too much wine, we were faced with the challenge of getting it back home safely. We searched for the wine shop after wine shop looking for a solution to transport our new found treasures home. Luckily we stumbled upon a big wine shop in Paris that sold the Transbottle TB 6 carriers. Immediately I purchased two units and headed to the airport. The airline baggage handler (Air France) was very impressed and commented that he had never seen them before but was happy that they were a professional solution (unlike shoving bottles into luggage with socks wrapped around them!) The TB 6 carriers worked flawlessly on that trip and our wine arrived home with us intact, the same day. On subsequent flights, both domestically and internationally, the TB 6 carriers performed perfectly over and over again on numerous flights. Having worked in the wine industry for many years I knew that this was a huge game-changer for not only industry folks like myself who faced the weekly challenge of transporting wines through air travel but the casual weekend wine traveler too. I reached out to the developer in France and was fortunate to secure the US distribution rights for the Transbottle line.
4. What were some of the challenges faced while building the product and importing it to the US?
As with any new product, there is existing competition and preconceived thoughts. Daily we have to “prove our value” and overcome notions of how things fit into the market. It is a lot of responsibility to ask people to invest their money in a device that is designed to protect their brand new wine finds. Trust is not won easily but because I was a customer of the product before becoming the importer/distributor I can personally endorse the success of using the products. I have had a long history of pioneering new concepts and technologies so I was excited to take on this great product line. Nothing is more convincing than real-world experience and I experienced the performance of Transbottle over and over again first hand.
5. What made you look at Transbottle and think “yes, this is going to work”
As I mentioned earlier, having worked in the wine industry and traveled with wine for years I saw the beauty and simplicity of the design of the Transbottle I knew that I would not only be solving a problem that I was facing but one that many face with regularity. The form factors, ultra-light weight and durability were all winning characteristics that I had not found in any other product. Sure cardboard boxes with styrofoam or pulp liners will work but it creates waste, Our carriers take the punishment of air travel and perform over and over. It's a solid investment in a piece of technology that delivers on its promise. Just Load, Lock & Fly is out slogan and spells it all out. No tape guns, no inserts, no waste.
6. Where does TransbottleUSA stand in the spectrum right now? And what are you looking forward to with TransbottleUSA?
We have been recently very blessed to start working with Caymus, Chappallette, Gary’s Wine, IWA and several other great wineries. I am not going to lie, it has taken a while to gain momentum but we are very pleased with our expansion and honored to be working with such great brands. We are definitely in growth phase and currently awaiting a new container load to arrive so we can keep fulfilling orders.
7. How did you go about with the branding and marketing of the product in the US? How did you pitch your product to people, and what do you think made them love it?
As a Sommelier and wine sales/marketer, I realized it was never about me but it is all about the great wines and winemakers that I get to represent. Great wine speaks for itself…. You just need to introduce it to the right audience. The same is true about TransbottleUSA. I am blessed to be well connected here in the Napa Valley and it is a wonderful community. I never wanted to abuse those relationships but have softly started to make inroads by introducing our carriers with programs that literally have zero out of pocket costs to our resellers. It is a simple straight forward model that is working well for us. We also are happy to remove our Transbottle logos and replace it with one of our winery partners logos. That is a win/win for us both. The winery's guests get a great piece of technology to safely transport their wine and the winery is able to imprint their brand on a product that will get used over and over again.
8. What would you say is the future of wine and technology?
Day by day we are all (collectively) trying to demystify wine. Those of us who work daily with wine fully understand and embrace what a wonderful addition wine can be to social occasions and great food experiences. The easier we can make it for the consumer to understand these great products we make the better off we all are. Taking wine with you, whether it be bringing it to dinner locally or traveling to a friend's house for the weekend, should be easy. No one wants to lug cardboard boxes or oversized luggage through airports. Robert Mondavi was the Preacher of “a bottle on every table”. That was his goal….. Our Transbottle Carriers make that job easier. I take my TB 3 carrier with me all the time to restaurants and friend’s houses. (Seriously, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a few bottles over dinner with friends?). A long weekend? Our TB 6 is perfect! When we start to make the accessibility of traveling with wine this easy it will promote Robert Mondavi’s goal!