If the beverage industry were a baseball team, there would be a lot of different players, from water to wine, spirits to soda and the juices, coffee and teas in between. One thing that each player would have in common is that they must adapt to what consumers want because one thing is sure: consumers want their beverages customized. Just walk into Starbucks to hear a certain editor’s coffee order: Grande soy, 2 pump sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte, extra hot, no whip (what can I say; it’s how I like it). The options are endless for customization. The more custom and personalized the drink, the more indulgent that beverage appears. And according to Landor (landor.com), one of the world’s leading strategic branding and design firms, 2015 is all about the individual, not the masses.

Thomas Ordahl, Landor’s chief strategy officer, says, “The brands of 2015 will be more agile, changing and adapting to meet the specific needs of individual consumers. Whether it’s creating custom packaging or using input from social media to improve a product, companies will embrace the power of one like never before.”

Coca-Cola was ahead of the curve with its Share a Coke campaign, launched last year, that brought personalized packaging to consumers. People love personalized items, from jewelry to license plates and Coca-Cola capitalized on this by creating personalized Coca-Cola bottles. The campaign featured common names and terms of endearment to bring the drinking experience closer to home. The brand printed 250 of the most popular names among teens and millennials on 20-ounce bottles.


A unique experience

To create a personal consumer experience with a brand via a smartphone, Avery Dennison (averydennison.com) has launched the DirectLink solution. NFC technology and the DirectLink solution quickly links consumers to a brand’s message directly from the product to the consumer’s smartphone. The DirectLink solution is all about bringing a brand’s message to the consumer in a contact-less way. Consumers gain immediate access to user friendly content. Simply hold an NFC-enabled smartphone over the tag and the information is automatically loaded to the device. Information like videos, contests, surveys and coupons are all options. The tag itself is hidden within the label so that current design is not disturbed. At PACK EXPO last year I saw this technology firsthand in an example for the wine industry. Not only can DirectLink deliver fun information like vineyard details, pairing suggestions and recipes, it also allows for authenticity tracking and offers a farm to table approach for wine.

Sometimes an experience isn’t always as hands-on as using a smartphone to garner additional product details, sometimes it is just smiling and relaxing into the package’s beauty. One Swedish startup brand, NOA Potions, has captured a lot of attention with the release of its relaxation drink.

NOA Potions won the world’s largest beverage contest, World Beverage Innovation Awards in November, with its anti-stress beverage NOA Relaxation. The Swedish startup beat out multinational companies such as Del Monte and Pernod Ricard by winning in the best premium drink category.

Relaxation drinks are fairly new to the beverage industry, but are gaining in popularity. NOA Relaxation boasts that it will help to reduce stress and increased mental capacity and the bottle’s whimsical feel only solidifies the claims. The pastel colors and floral graphics lend it to a natural, ethereal appearance.

Beverage packaging has a unique job in that it not only must protect the liquid inside, but it must convey the beverage’s story and appeal to the consumer. Today consumers are buying their beverages differently. The days of stocking up on the family’s favorite drink at a club store are dwindling. While yes, the occasion to do just that is still relevant today, what is even more relevant is the quick decision purchase.

Jill Ahern, consulting services senior director for Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions at HAVI Global Solutions (havigs.com), says that there is a rise in the popularity of single-serve, and quick grab and go items. She says that buying ahead or in bulk is declining; consumers buy what they need for the moment. Because of this, the package must be portable and convenient as consumers adopt a convenience store approach to consumption. Packagers must create packaging to convey the benefits of the beverage, or entice a customer looking for an indulgent product. Taking it a step further, some packaging has even been designed ergonomically to fit perfectly in consumers’ hands to literally make the grab and go experience even more comfortable. For more insights into trends in beverages from Ahern, see below.


Eco-conscious packaging still top of mind

Disposability is still on consumers’ minds, according to Ahern. More than ever we are aware of recyclability, recycled materials and the idea of lightweighting. Sidel’s (sidel.com) RightWeight bottle addresses’ consumer concerns about packaging waste. The concept bottle weighs 34% less than the average commercial bottle and achieves 32% more top-load performance than the lightest commercial bottle, resulting in cost savings, according to Sidel data. The bottle is a result of Sidel’s new rightweight approach to lightweight bottle design. This approach ensures bottles are lighter yet also stay attractive, protect beverages and lead to high consumer satisfaction.

The bottle, designed for still water, uses less energy during production and still delivers a good consumer experience, as the bottle’s integrity is not compromised through the lightweighting process.

Since grade school, we have been taught about the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. This idea is still very much prevalent within the packaging industry in response to pressures from consumers and manufacturers alike.

Novelis (novelis.com), the global leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, has announced a new commitment to convert its entire beverage can body sheet production to its evercan sheet by the end of 2017. According to the company, evercan is the world’s first certified high-recycled content aluminum for beverage cans. This commitment means that all can body sheet produced by Novelis will be certified 90% recycled content, compared to the global industry average of 50%.

To encourage broad adoption across the market, Novelis will assist other aluminum manufacturers by sharing knowledge of the process to certify high-recycled content beverage sheet using the methodology of  Scientific Certification Services (SCS), a recognized leader in environmental auditing that certifies evercan’s high-recycled content.

The shift is sure to satisfy consumers as today more than ever they are paying attention to the materials used in some of their favorite packages. According to a survey by Forum for the Future (forumforthefuture.org), 62% of consumers say they would feel negatively toward brands that do not use sustainable packaging and 90% are prepared to boycott brands they consider to be acting irresponsibly.

Beverage packaging today aims to please on several levels: aesthetics, eco-conscious, functional, customized, unique and interactive. The pressure is on to hit the ball out of the park and to deliver consumers a home run. As more consumers want a personal experience from their beverages, packaging will have to adapt to meet the needs of each player on the team.



Beverage Packaging study shows growth opportunities


According to PMMI’s (pmmi.org) Beverage Packaging Market Assessment, published in September, the beverage market in the United States is expected to reach a value of $26.3 Billion by 2015. Bottles are still the top choice for packaging, making up 55% of the market. Plastic is expected to remain the most popular packaging material for the foreseeable future, making up 40% of the market’s material use. And although they suffered from a drop in soft drink sales, aluminum cans are picking up steam as other beverage categories — such as energy drinks and microbrews — are more than making up for the lost volume. Flexible pouches have experienced the slowest growth, but many respondents still anticipate increased adoption of flexible beverage packaging down the road.  The key to that, the report says, would be products geared to consumers accustomed to beverages, such as juice, in pouches. The report listed the challenges and trends in packaging for the beverage market, which some revolve around portion sizes, package dimensions and attributes contributing to brand differentiation.



A Q&A with Jill Ahern, senior director, consulting services, Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions at HAVI Global Solutions.


Food and Beverage Packaging: Where do you see the beverage industry headed?

Jill Ahern: The beverage industry is strongly embracing personalization and customization of products. Once a consumer has experienced customization in one category, he/she carries those expectations to other categories. Consumers have grown accustomed to beverage personalization in the QSR (quick service restaurants) space (Coke freestyle, Starbucks custom orders, etc.) and are looking for more ways to bring the ability to customize home. We see personal customization at the user level continuing to drive the industry. 


FBP:  What are some trends that have emerged for beverage packaging in the recent years? 

Ahern: In our research we have definitely seen the rise of interest in functional beverages. The days of a beverage promising simply to quench thirst are long over. Beverages are now expected to beautify, support health, meet personal nutritional or lifestyle needs and even treat common ailments. Many of these benefits are made possible by packaging solutions such as those which increase efficacy by dosing of vitamins into the liquid to maintain potency or by barrier properties that increase ambient shelf-life.


FBP:  What packaging features are a must for today’s beverage consumers?

Ahern: This will certainly vary by category. Generally, they need to maintain or protect the product and support the situation of use. For example, if you are grabbing something before going on a run, you certainly need an easily reclosable solution. It’s also important to communicate the benefit of the product, not just visually, but physically, and to connect emotionally with the user. Manufacturers should be looking very closely at if the packaging supports the brand promise. Coke has done this quite carefully through the development of many packages that support different occasions of use for the same product but still synchronizing with the brand promise.


FBP:  How do CPGs get their beverage packages noticed?

Ahern: We certainly see the packaging trends driving towards both unique and functional features. In fact, from our research, we really see the challenge to manufacturers is making packaging more functional rather than unique. This goes well beyond just a label or graphic appeal to providing a tangible benefit to the consumer. A great example is the Coors Light label that changes based upon the temperature of the beverage. This has been a success with consumers and is satisfying a need that is functional: “Is the beer at the proper temperature?” as well as emotional and was completely unique to the category. 

This balance is the most critical element of beverage packaging’s appeal to consumers. It is so important that the package aligns with the brand promise and is appealing to senses. However, while the package needs to have a physical presence that is appealing, it must still be functional and of course, also be manufacturable.

Some beverage brands are pushing toward being memorable through very unique shapes or features such as technologies like QR codes or other digital media features. It will be interesting to gauge consumer interest in these and whether they drive loyalty or whether these packaging strategies drive only novelty purchases.


Jill Ahern is consulting services senior director for Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions at HAVI Global Solutions. Since joining the company in 2010, she has provided leadership to practice management and key client programs, particularly in the consulting areas of market & consumer insight, innovation, and packaging strategy. Ahern brings more than 18 years of experience leading strategic and collaborative projects including product launches, business development initiatives, corporate events and joint ventures.