What’s cool about bottles?
Look, no one loves a well designed can more than your pals at CBB, so none of this is to necessarily demean the value of the can, but it is worth noting that there is more value to a bottle than mere reliability and ordering convenience. More and more craft breweries are customizing the look and feel of their brand through the size, shape and color of their bottles. While a can offers 360-degrees of graphical opportunities, it is all contained within that shape. With a bottle, the possibilities are vast and now because of improved manufacturing processes, more affordable than ever.
“Glass offers opportunities to reinforce your brand that other materials can’t match. The possibilities available — through shapes, colors, embossing, labeling, decorating and closures — mean you can create more consumption experiences with glass than with any other package type,” Gribble said. “You can use a traditional shape to convey the style of your beer, but glass can also be molded into virtually any shape to create a unique profile. Brand iconography can be embossed into every bottle to complement the label. And while craft brewers love the familiar pry-off cap, twist offs and swing tops also can be great options for beer.”
The standard beer bottle in the O-I lineup remains the 12-ounce amber bottle, however the 22-ounce share bottle is another popular size. Beer bottle colors include amber, flint and emerald green. O-I’s Artisan Collection is designed to differentiate a brewer’s brand featuring four bottles styles, each in 12-ounce and 22-ounce sizes.
Stebbins said Waterloo is seeing an upswing in requests for novelty shaped bottles, and 500-ml sizes are increasingly popular.
But don’t forget the possibilities beyond that bottle size and shape — through colors, embossing, labeling, decorating and closures — all of which allows a brewer to create more consumption experiences.
Plus, not all customers are hip to the new thinking that cans offer comparable quality these days, conjuring images of 24-packs of Natural Light. According to research conducted by Mintel earlier this year for the Glass Packaging Institute, 71 percent of craft beer consumers say that glass offers the best tasting beer.
“Brewers are passionate about the quality of the beer they create, and glass bottles are perceived to be higher quality and presents to consumers a more refined image that goes along with the craft’nature of the industry,” Gribble said. “Packaging has a big impact on how beer lovers feel about your brand. Glass conveys a superior image at every point of contact between the consumer and your beer. On the store shelf, glass stands proud and signals premium quality.”
Glass is made from three simple, abundant and readily available natural ingredients, plus those aforementioned manufacturing improvements also mean glass is increasingly sustainable and completely recyclable.
Gribble posited these as key questions to ask of any prospective bottle supplier:
- Where are your bottles made?
- What do you do to ensure high-quality glass?
- What is the cost per bottle?
- What is the cost for a private mold?
- What are the packaging options?
- How many bottles are on a pallet?
- How many bottles are on a truckload?
- Do you decorate onto the glass (ACL/silk screen)?
- How much gas can a bottle hold? Can you send drawings?
- How is the price determined?
Labeling on the bottle
Labeling plays a big part in completing the vision that started with the bottle spec. Decisions in that world will come down to cut and stack or pressure sensitive; both carry their own pros and cons in terms of price point, operations and look and feel. We have a ton of information on those decisions here and here.
But labeling is yet another area where brewers are starting to look at the bottle itself. Waterloo has seen a jump in the number of breweries looking to screen print directly onto the bottle.
“Label sourcing, hand labeling and re-packing after labeling take a lot of time [and add to labor expenses]. We are currently seeing an upswing in UV color printing requests,” Stebbins noted. “Bottles arrive at the customer’s facility ready to fill, without all of the manual labor and time involved with paper labels. Shelf presence is enhanced, and the end results are often stunning.”
Remember to choose quality
When choosing among your bottle options, you’ll want to think like a craft beer consumer and gravitate toward quality. Look for experience and customer service after the sale. When you are investing everything you have into a product or launch, you need to feel confident that the bottles you are purchasing suit your project. Waterloo Container, for example, has been in the glass bottle business for more than 30 years and can offer a wealth of experience and knowledge to clients.
“Working with an experienced team, from procurement to printing, can help alleviate your worries and help you grow your brand,” Stebbins said. “There is a lot of inferior glass being offered at hard-to-resist prices, but you want to be sure you have the support of your vendor before, during and after the sale should any issues arise.”
Same goes for O-I: “Regardless of whether a brewer gets their glass bottles directly from O-I or through one of our distributing partners, O-I will support each filler and determine the root cause of an issue, help improve production efficiency and support customers at all filling locations,” Gribble said.