It is packaging week on Craft Brewing Business. Did you miss our first dispatch from Pack Expo 2016? Check out all the latest trends here. Oh, and this great insight into new Crowler seaming and can handle solutions.
After four days of wandering McCormick Place, I was pretty overwhelmed with information and was losing track of who offered what.
It was on the last day that I discovered the FILTEC booth. Filtec makes inspection equipment for your bottling and canning lines. I had learned about depalletizers, ionized air rinsers, sleeve label applicators, adhesive labelers, heat tunnels, fillers, seamers, driers, warmers, coders, case erectors, case packers and the various conveyors that take the product from one machine to another. At Filtec, I learned there was a whole separate layer of machines that just verified if other machines were doing their jobs properly.
And again, almost no one was working hard to tell me why their machine was better than the last guy’s. Some of them told me it was all they could do to keep up with the demand as it was.
So what can the craft beer professional take away from Pack Expo 2016?
1. Companies want to work with you
The good news for the brewer getting into packaging is that these companies want to work with you. You have caught their attention, and they are looking for ways to get you started with one of their machines. Of course, they hope you’ll then add on another of their machines, in some cases several of their machines.
But that means they will work individually with you to help you understand what they can do for you. They understand you need to start small and affordable, and they also understand that you may not know exactly what you need or what you should invest in first.
2. You’ll need to do some work yourself
That said, expect to do some homework. You should know what you need, what you simply cannot budge on and what you can adapt to. The buzzword, of course, is “automation.” What tasks just make more sense to do by machine if you are able? What gains could you make in freeing up an employee here or there so they can do more highly skilled tasks around your brewery?
3. There’s a knowledge gap waiting for a good marketer
Finally, I walked away from Pack Expo believing there is a big space on the marketing end for anyone wanting to provide some guidance for the brewer at the top of their sales funnel. A company that can say, “Here’s what you’ll need to get into canning, and here’s where we fit in,” will gain the trust of the brewer simply by signaling its willingness to be a helpful guide.
Based on trends at this year’s Pack Expo, expect can sleeves and applicators to get more attention and perhaps to creep down in price. Similarly, as craft grows, expect more manufacturers to produce craft-centric packaging solutions, which will put pressure on them to highlight their differentiators and make it easier for breweries to navigate this crucial component of any growth and distribution strategy.
Brad Fruhauff is a good dude, a great beer writer and a contributor to Craft Brewing Business. Check out his other work here.