During the holiday season, the Craft Brewing Business editors reluctantly head into the world to buy gifts and attend family gatherings. Before heading out though, let’s take a look at some of the top stories of the year from both the craft brewing industry and original features from Craft Brewing Business.
It came without growlers! It came without cans! It came without bombers, bottles or kegs!
Actually, Grinch, that’s all impossible. The beer is the star of the show, but it cannot exist, at least drinkable, without packaging. Since packaging is a fact of life, craft brewers must stay educated on all of the latest developments. Luckily, Craft Brewing Business is here to help. Here is our biggest and best craft brewing packaging info from 2013.
Karla Kellogg, marketing manager—beer for Verallia, a global glass manufacturer, said the 12-ounce long-neck and heritage-style bottles are still the most popular overall but that there has been an uptick in the larger formats, including the 22-ounce bombers and 750ml champagne styles, mostly due to an increase in specialty offerings across the industry.
Thibault, however, predicts a shift to smaller bottles in 2014.
“We have manufactured two new bottles for that market, including a 16 ounce sparkling for sour beers and a very unique 12 ounce bottle with no neck,” he said. United Bottling also developed a bottle specifically for barley wines this year called the Chateau Bière.
Questions to answer for selecting that bottle type, according to Pascal Thibault, development and sales, United Bottles & Packaging:
What is the price point you are aiming for at retail? Can you do a beer at $5 per bottle? Or $12 per bottle? What is feasible in your market? The price of a bottle is usually determined by the weight, quality where it’s made and the size of the production run for this bottle.
What type of equipment do I need for my bottle?
What will be the pressure rating of your beer? This is important for determining the best weight bottle for your project.
As the craft brewing industry rises, so too does the allure of the growler. Not all states have come around (we’re looking at you, Florida), but for those who are able, selling a growler is a valuable weapon in the craft brewing arsenal.“It’s pretty amazing,” says Peter Milkie, KegWorks Draft Beer Expert. “When I first started home brewing, growlers were only used in small circles of hardcore beer geeks. Now they’re everywhere.”
And why not? Let’s count the ways that growlers benefit us all. A growler:
Allows the customer to take the brewery experience home, whether that’s the opportunity to bring back an all-time favorite from the tap or being able to transport a small-run or tasting room-only special.
Enables a brewery to enlist a small but willing marketing army, equipped with logo’d products.
Is a fun word to say, and fun thing to own.
Lets the brewer diversify its delivery mechanisms for its customer.
Is functional merchandise. It’s an optional, sometimes passion purchase that extends the elasticity of your on-site product and overall brand.
Did we mention it’s just fun to say?
“Growlers have seen a tremendous upswing in popularity in the past year, which I’m sure anyone involved with the craft brewing space has noticed,” said Karthik Sridharan, chief executive officer of Kinnek. Kinnek is an online marketplace that directly links brewers looking to buy with a database of interested suppliers. Through the thousands of transactions moving the system, Kinnek has noticed the increased activity in growler sales through the platform.
In May, we reported that legislation that allowed beer and other malt beverages to be sold in pouches was signed into law by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.
The top packaging plot of the year seemed to be the rise of the can.
“Based on publicly available information, it looks like cans as a percentage of craft beer are order of magnitude somewhere between 3 percent to 8 percent depending on market, and the market impact seems to be water markets or hiking markets, camping markets, fishing markets,” said Boston Beer President and Chief Executive Officer Martin Roper during the company’s Q1 2013 investors’ call.
The movement to cans both hit the large and small scale. Large scale example: Sam Adams introduced the Sam Can. On the small scale: Mobile canning affiliates popped up across the country, bringing canning equipment to any brewer interested in canning but not investing in the equipment themselves:
The barrier that once existed between canned beers and craft beers has been torn down. Andrew McLean and Scott Richards, partners at Michigan Mobile Canning, noted that they had anticipated encountering some remnants of the old stigma that canned beer was cheap, low-quality beer, but that resistance wasn’t there upon starting their business.
“I was pleasantly surprised that people have long understood the huge advances in canning technology over the years, and now some of the largest, most respected craft brewers in the country are doing it,” McLean said. “Craft beer drinkers are a pretty well-informed group, and they understand all the benefits of cans. It’s better for the beer, with no light or oxygen hitting the beer. It’s better for the environment. It travels better. It gets cold faster. The benefits go on and on, and craft beer drinkers know it.”
For Mobile Canning Systems, the process begins with the labels. First-time orders are scheduled about four to six weeks ahead of time to allow for label approval, printing and application to the cans. The company uses a unique plastic-sleeve label that wraps around the can. This enables all parties to avoid the bulk orders required in pre-printed cans and allows Mobile Canning to provide custom labels in the smaller batches – a benefit for small and large brewers alike.
“Once that’s set, the brewer just lets us know how many barrels and when he wants us there,” McLean said. “We arrive on-site, unload the equipment and supplies, including the pre-labeled cans, and get to work. When we’re done, we load everything back up, and the brewer is left with pallets of cans to sell and we’re out of their way until next time.”
The equipment and process usually handles about 25 to 35 cans a minute, depending on whether it’s a 12- or 16-ounce run. There is the full-service option where Mobile Canning supplies everything, including the pre-labeled cans, can tops, four- or six-pack holders and cardboard flats. If a brewery is looking to hit retail with a lot of cans, the company can also provide an option where the brewer purchases a bulk order of pre-printed cans and Mobile Canning would arrive to simply provide the canning services.
The only potential restriction is the on-site layout, McLean said.
“While the line has been specially configured to be mobile, we still need to be able to get the line at least somewhat near the beer,” he said. “There aren’t too many locations we can’t reach, but that’s a consideration as we’re meeting brewers and touring their facilities. However, as we told them, if you want your beers in cans, we’ll figure out a way to make it work. When there’s beer to be had, brains can get pretty creative.”
OK, put aside the large and small scale for a second, the most compelling packaging story this year might have registered only on a musical scale:
In celebration of the sound and flavor of the Northwest United States, Astoria, Ore.-based Fort George Brewery is promoting Tender Loving Empire, a consignment shop, screen printer and record label representing artists in the region, using a uniquely aluminum medium.
Tender Loving Empire designer Andrew Sloan collaborated with Josh Berger of PLAZM design for the NWPA “Wooden Sunset” can, using various wooden elements combined to look like a coastal sunset. The cans also feature a sticker with a special code for free downloads of music from artists on the Tender Loving Empire label. The partnership takes one step further with the production of four music videos that were filmed on the Columbia River from Portland all the way to around the canning line itself. The NWPA music video series can be viewed online at Fort George Brewery Tender Loving Empire Videos.
“When it comes to canning our beers, we wanted to work with a partner that offered quality packaging but was also flexible enough to support us in some of our more complex collaborations, like this one,” said Brian Bovenizer, marketing manager at Fort George Brewery. “Crown’s support was critical in bringing this seasonal ale to life and leveraging the packaging format to its best advantage.”
A growing number of Americans say that recycling is important to them and significantly impacts their food and beverage purchasing decisions, according to new data commissioned by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), the association representing the North American manufacturers of glass containers.
In the 2013 study of consumers nationwide, more than 75 percent said recycling is important to them. When asked whether or not using packaging that is made with renewable or recycled resources influences their choice of brands, products or services, consumers overwhelmingly indicated that it did, with more than 65 percent stating that it was either an extremely or very positive influence over their choices.
The study, commissioned by GPI and other organizations, was conducted by EcoFocus Worldwide, a leading authority on green and sustainability consumer trends. The researchers polled more than 4,000 nationally representative adults ages 18 to 65.
“All recycling is important,” said Lynn Bragg, president of GPI, “but glass recycling is unique in terms of the impact it can have on the environment. For example, energy costs drop about 3 percent for every 10 percent of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process. Glass container manufacturing facilities use recycled glass every day in the production of new containers, translating into significant energy usage reductions.”
For those looking into more eco-friendly labeling options for your next brew, DWS Printing debuted Legacy Label Paper this year.
According to the company’s site, Legacy Label Paper is 100 percent post-consumer recycled, wet-strength label paper and is aimed specifically at the craft beer market. The 51-pound paper is manufactured using 100 percent renewable electricity through a combination of direct low-impact hydroelectric and purchased wind power energy credits. It is also manufactured carbon neutral.
“Craft brewers are committed to make sure their packaging has minimal impact on the environment and our Legacy Label gives them a new way to take that commitment to the next level,” said Andy Staib, DWS partner. “While certain brewers have successfully ‘greened’ their packaging by using post-consumer content in their six-packs and corrugated, labels have traditionally been made using only virgin fiber. We are bringing an alternative option to the table — a label paper that is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber and is still water resistant.”
Legacy Label is an uncoated label paper that can provide a more natural look and feel than gloss coated labels. The manufacturing process is also chlorine free and includes material from “responsibly managed forests.”
If you are concerned about sustainability, you will probably want a square cut label. Labels are based on squares. If you want a curved label with a curved neck, those are being cut from a square, sending the surrounding material into the trash.
The impact of the bottle on your design. “Design to the bottle so that the main image fits the entire front,” said Inland Label Chief Executive Officer Mark Glendenning. “Also, do yourself a favor and have a label panel on the bottle. That will lower your costs and your labels will look better, too.”
Cut and stack v. Pressure sensitive labels
The labeling world for brewers divides, for the most part, into two specific categories: cut and stack and pressure sensitive. Cut and stack labels are typically less expensive to purchase than pressure sensitive labels, but the overall value proposition is more complicated, as the overall production and application process for cut and stack paper labels create other costs. There are design implications as well.
“You will see differences in label quality when a brewer uses a specialty paper or coating on their label,” said Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director for Fort Dearborn Company. “A brewer may also choose to use a pressure sensitive label instead of the traditional cut and stack paper label, which can give an upscale look and feel to the product.”
According to numbers from Oak Printing Co., the market breakdown is 70 percent cut and stack and 30 percent pressure sensitive among breweries. From the perspective of Jack Wright, president of Atlas Labels and Packaging, brewers have a tendency to lean toward paper labels because they carry that lower cost, but “after we explain the label cost, size and material restrictions, they go to pressure sensitive labels.” Atlas works with more than 500 craft brewers and of the start-ups he works with, about 90 percent go with pressure sensitive.
“The [cut and stack] paper labels are typically about one-third the cost of pressure sensitive but are normally restricted to the size of the die plate on the equipment and can’t be laminated,” he said. A pressure sensitive label also comes self-adhering where cut and stack labels require glue.
Cut and stack labels can be applied at a very high speed, up to about 1,500 bottles per minute, with either hot or cold glue. The downside here is the front-end capital expenditure for implementing such a labeling system.
Your labeling equipment will dictate the type of label you run, but new labeling equipment is making all of this easier, according to Inland Label Chief Executive Officer Mark Glendenning. Newer labeling equipment is modular, which will allow a unit to bolt onto a machine, run cold glue for a few days, and then unbolt for completely different run, like pressure sensitive.
Pressure sensitive costs will also increase as speed increases. If you need more bottles per minute, you will then need a material for the liner that helps it withstand the added stress of the faster machine. If you have the machine in house, costs go up there as well as the machine will need better tension controls at higher speeds.
“With pressure sensitive design, get good glass with a consistently good surface,” Glendenning advised. “It’s a limited amount of adhesive to smooth across and it’s susceptible to voids and pits and problems on the glass. It’s more likely for opaque bottle labels to have wrinkles, and for clear bottles to have wrinkles and/ or bubbles.”