Everyone thinks they know what How the Grinch Stole Christmas is all about. Everyone thinks that the Grinch — that curmudgeonly green creature who founded the War on Christmas — was won over by the loving spirit of the Whos, who celebrated the holiday even without gifts.
Wrong. This ain’t about gifts. Rewatch that pivotal scene and think about what the Grinch is saying, most notably the part about, “It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
You see, the Grinch was a packaging aficionado. He understood the value of quality packaging for a brand and its importance in the marketplace. When he saw that this town was sticking together even without the valuable commodity of packaging, well, he was just so flummoxed that he couldn’t help but join their cult. And while it is a nice sentiment for the kids, don’t let your brewery fall prey to this notion like the Grinch did. Packaging is hugely important to your brewery. As you look back at our top features on packaging this year, please remember that your beer will not “come all the same” if you don’t think about your labels, your inventory, your keg management, etc.
In 2012, Justin Brandt founded Northwest Canning, a mobile canning operation based in Portland, Ore., that provides affordable packaging solutions for microbreweries and regional craft breweries throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Since its inception, Northwest Canning has experienced explosive growth, in line with the continued increase in craft brewing and has expanded its business from $100,000 in annual income to more than $1.5 million. To keep up with the increasing demand and sustain business growth, Northwest Canning examines its equipment and operational methods regularly to ensure it can continue to be “the fastest canning operation on the road.”
Packaging plays a huge role in helping a small brewery expand outside of its tasting room walls. This is not to diminish the role of you beer’s quality in your success, but think of all the moments of interaction a retail customer has with your beer before ever sitting down and sipping a pint. That first glance around the shelves and coolers showcases dozens of breweries and hundreds of beers to parse through in a craft beer buying situation. A bevy of questions come to the customer’s mind: What do I recognize? What do I like? What new stands out to me? The aesthetics of logos, labels, containers (cans or bottles?) and cardboard packaging all come into play. Shelf positioning and any additional POS promotion also help.
There are a multitude of variables from the point of purchase to the customer placing a six pack in the fridge. Packaging for distribution brings in all sorts of variables for the business behind the scenes — inventory of supplies, extra equipment, tons of man power, etc. Small brewers have little room for error in nailing all of these decisions in their first go-round, as there may not be time for a second.
Feels like there’s never been the best packaging solution for cans. There’s the old school plastic rings that are notoriously hazardous for wildlife (cue PSA), which is starting to finally give way to the Paktech carriers. While they use more plastic, they are better for stacking and transporting 6 packs of cans, and there isn’t the same risk for the environment. But prying a can loose from those things is more annoying than you’d like it to be. Some breweries, like 21st Amendment, avoid plastic altogether with cardboard packaging. This is maybe the overall best solution for the environment, but it is a more expensive option.
So, what if there was a combo solution? Something cardboard that also functions like a typical six-pack carrier so that it requires less material? Enter Fishbone Packaging, which has a new product that does just that. There’s also a built-in branding opportunity.
Small batch manufacturing has placed an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, so everything from the packaging and labeling to the product is enjoying an upgrade. If you’re an emerging brewer, your first concern is going to be the flavor and body of your brew, but don’t forget about the glue that holds it all together.
You can’t sell your product without packaging, and your production volume will largely dictate the type of packaging and shipping materials that make the most sense for your brand. When considering manufacturing cost, ease and efficiency, adhesive may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but this small choice can create a huge impact on your break-even analysis and first years of success. To help you understand the impact adhesive can have, we’ve highlighted a few key sticking points.
MicroStar Logistics, a leading keg solutions provider for the beer industry, has been constantly growing and expanding its services for craft breweries of all sizes. In its latest move, the company has acquired KegCraft, a regional supplier of keg management services for midsize craft brewers. This acquisition complements MicroStar’s national network of 2-million+ kegs, the largest independently-owned float in North America, utilized by about half of the 50 largest craft brewers.
Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the shelf … The number may seem far greater when consumers go to the store to select a craft beer. The product label, however, can attract consumer attention and drive purchase intent, according to a new study conducted by Package InSight at Clemson University and sponsored by Avery Dennison.
The study examined the shelf impact of craft beer labels when products were positioned in a simulated retail store environment. The study’s results are important to helping craft brewers understand consumer preference. Insight provided could help savvy brewers compete in this flourishing category comprised of 3,418 breweries with volume growth of 18.6 percent and 22 percent retail growth between 2013 and 2014 (Brewers Association). In fact, 615 new breweries opened in 2014, representing a 19 percent increase.
Craft breweries looking to run multiple sizes and packs of bottles should consider the quick-change features of the Model 101 case packer. According to A-B-C Packaging, the Model 101 can reduce downtime up to 30 percent compared to conventional changeover practices.
This packer is designed with complete gripper assemblies for all pack/bottle patterns that each packager requires to eliminate time-consuming gripper adjustment, and guide rail placement is simplified with sliding and locking handles to allow quick adjustment to the new specification. In three steps, the changeover is completed.
Innovative and (dare we say) arty packaging solutions continue to attract attention in the craft brewing industry. An example? Well, how about a take-home draft beer in a quart-sized, tall-boy aluminum can that keeps well and stores conveniently in your fridge. Sold? That’s the promise of the Crowler, beer dispensed into a 32-ounce can, then sealed (while you watch) with the same style of pop-top lid that’s a mainstay of the beverage world. We’ve covered the Crowler before (an Oskar Blues Brewery and Ball Corp. brainchild), but now this excellent idea is migrating across the craft brewing landscape. Watch this cool video by New Jersey-based craft beer chronicler, I Drink Good Beer, as two devotees of the Crowler — a New Jersey brewery and a Pennsylvania bar — pick up the story.
Oak Printing knows printing (of course), but especially beer labels. Founded in 1922, Oak is now one of the leading providers of cut and stack labels to the craft beer industry and is headed by third-generation leadership in president Jim Helms. They also live right down the street from the CBB offices here in Cleveland, but we still traveled all the way to Portland to chat with Dave Clements, director of market development, at the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America. Be sure to check out the video above to get familiar with the company and cut-and-stack label trends, or read an extended Q&A below.
You love your kegs, but how well do you really know them? Kegs have cold, steely exteriors, and they try to hide what’s inside them, but it is there. To be a pal to your kegs, and to provide the best beer you can, you need a more intimate look inside. At the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America, MicroStar demonstrated one such powerful way to do this, using a RoTech diagnostic keg and a quality assurance manager.
Chris Nimptsch, CEO of PROFAMO, walked us through the setup. A RoTech diagnostic keg is equipped with three temperature sensors (neck, middle and top — all at least a millimeter off the walls so as not to be affected by the temperature of the metal), a level sensor, a pressure sensor and a clamping sensor. The keg is sent down the line, cleaned, sanitized and filled. The sensors then report back to a computer to generate a chart, like the one below, that details how smoothly and efficiently the process went.
The can packaging debate is pretty much over in the craft beer industry — craft brewers are loving cans — but we decided to ask Crown Beverage Packaging about it anyway. As one of the country’s top metal packaging solutions providers and the inventor of the bottle cap (hence the name), Crown has been helping craft brewers ramp up canning lines across the country for a few years now, providing a variety of unique aluminum-packaged beer products that are seeing increased exposure — from laser-etched tabs and promotional ends to unique finishes and inks. Nick Osborne, regional sales manager for Crown Beverage Packaging, North America, answered a few of our questions — not just about the canning industry, but the craft brewing market as a whole.
Many of these types of breweries follow a similar trajectory, at least in part. They begin from homebrewing, with an interested brewer experimenting and learning more about the brewing process. As that brewer becomes more established, beer from their brewery may find its way into local bars and brewpubs, giving an opportunity for the beer to reach more people, and for the brewer to get feedback on flavors, quality and more. From there, many breweries begin to distribute beer in growlers or kegs to customers directly. If the brewery is successful, they may use the resources of a larger brewery for distribution in marked, labeled bottles, typically 12 or 22 ounces. After or in lieu of that, successful breweries may invest in their own packaging equipment and distribute their own beer to a wider network of customers.
While this is not the only trajectory for craft breweries, it is a common one. All along the way, packaging and distribution of beer tends to be less of a focus than the brewing itself, but is nonetheless essential to a brewery’s success.
Domino Printing recently made advancements in power concentration laser printing allowing customers more flexibility and efficiency for their coding needs. The new power concentration technology delivers more power to the substrate, simulating performance of a higher-powered laser but with lower cost, a smaller footprint and less energy than a lower-powered laser. This technology also provides more power directly to the substrate without working as hard, offering greater reliability, according to the company. Check out the video below to see the technology in action.
A nice new CFT canning system was just installed by Eddyline Brewery that will triple its canning production speeds. When researching canning lines, Eddyline says Italy-based CFT Packaging USA Inc. offered a solution that would minimize oxidation, loss of aroma and inconsistent fills. These claims are bolstered by an X-Ray fill level analyzer that ensures all cans are perfectly filled while underfilled cans are automatically rejected.
There are currently less than two dozen of these CFT canning systems in the country. Eddyline is definitely showing its commitment to quality with this new investment.
Did all of that packaging knowledge tire you out or are you thirsty for more? Would you like more references to the Grinch? If so, here are links to our Best of Packaging collections from previous years.