It’s no secret that the American craft brewing market is booming for the entrepreneurial minded barley and hops lovers, thus creating a competitive environment to navigate. In 2018, the Brewers Association recorded a total of 7,346 craft breweries operating in the United States, with 1,049 opening their doors that year alone. This ever-increasing competition forces craft brewers to evaluate every aspect of their product that can provide provide an edge, including design and packaging.
According to a recent Nielsen report, a staggering 71 percent of craft beer buyers decide which beer to buy at the point of purchase. Further, that same percentage said they like to try brands with bold or interesting packaging. Not surprisingly, this aligns with the same study’s observations that 66 percent of American craft beer buyers say that a beer’s package or label is “very” or “extremely” important in capturing their attention.
Like most startups, these companies are often faced with the challenges inherent of smaller operations with lower volume production and shoe-string budgets. As a result, many craft brewers are exploring pressure-sensitive labels to bring creative designs, while improving shelf impact and increasing market share through product differentiation.
High design meets scalability and cost efficiency
The beer industry commonly uses direct-to-can printing as well as cut-and-stack, wraparound or paper labels, which are pre-printed then glued to the beer bottle or can during production. However, pressure-sensitive labels offer more print effects and finishing options than paper or cut-and-stack categories — especially for effects like embossing or metallics — and work with aluminum when it’s either wet or dry. This has certainly opened up options that bring new creative designs and applications at either point of production or while pouring a fresh crowler to take home from the brewery or taproom.
While cut and stack labels continue to be a viable option for those breweries with high volume, small brewing operations don’t generally have the have the cash or space to meet the minimum orders for direct-to-can printing, so blank cans and bottles and custom adhesive back labels become an attractive option. Moreover, digital print technology offers a high quality production alternative, allowing brewers to print labels as needed rather than having to incur the cost of ordering and warehousing batches ahead of time.
This added flexibility also enables craft brewers to grow sub-categories like ciders, sours and an increasing number of fruit beers, where differentiation is just as critical to success. In 2016, there were three times as many new cider launches as there were in 2012, and cider competed with an average of 627 beer items on the average liquor store shelf. Digitally printed pressure-sensitive labels offer tremendous design and label content flexibility.
Choosing a labeling partner
For most breweries, pressure-sensitive labels are the best fit for labeling craft beer. While some high-volume breweries may find benefits in the cost-effective large runs of cut and stack labels, craft breweries can benefit from the easier production process and flexibility that digitally printed pressure-sensitive labels provide.
When selecting a pressure-sensitive label provider, craft brewers should look for an experienced partner that can provide creative design, while developing the best label solution for their growing needs. RRD offers an end-to-end solution with more than 1,000 different substrate and label combinations to help craft brewers save cost, increase efficiency, meet regulatory standards and compliance and improve customer engagement. Our nationwide team of labels experts would love to stop by for a pint (or two) and help bring ideas to help you achieve your goals. As the craft beer industry continues to expand and diversify, consider pressure-sensitive labels as an option to meet ever-changing needs. Happy fermenting!
Bruce Hanson is the president of RRD Labels and Forms.