Welcome to our annual top 25 beverage packaging companies report, where we reveal the biggest names in packaged beverages. In the accompanying chart, we list the beverage packagers in order from largest to smallest, based on 2015 revenue numbers.

The beverage industry is seeing many trends emerge as consumers change the way they drink their favorite beverages. One thing remains and most likely will continue well into the future: the increased popularity of single-serve packaging. Convenience is king and consumer beverage trends prove this with popular examples including wine in single-serve cans, the plethora of bottled water brands and varieties – including all things sparkling – and ready-to-drink coffee and teas, and we can’t forget about the oh-so-popular K-Cup.

Speaking of K-Cups, Keurig Green Mountain (#20 on our list) announced a recyclable K-Cup in response to ongoing critique about the package’s waste issues. The brand has faced criticism from consumers and environmentalists over the waste created by the cups, both in production and through consumer usage. The brand commits to making 100% of K-Cup packs recyclable by 2020. The issue now will be whether or not consumers take the time to peel back the top, empty the cup and recycle it. Not surprising, the main draw to these K-Cups is the fast and convenient brewing, as well as disposal. Consumer desire for convenience is so strong (and their love for the K-Cup) that Keurig is America’s number one single-serve coffee brand.

What else is pushing single-serve sales? Ready-to-drink beverages, including bottled water. According to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), in conjunction with Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), bottled water sales are up. The companies released 2015 bottled water statistics, showing that Americans’ consumption of bottled water increased by 7.9% and bottled water sales are up 8.9% since the previous year. The attributes that make the drink appealing to today’s consumers? Bottled water can be consumed at any time of day, doesn’t need to be kept cold or hot, and is sold everywhere. BMC now indicates that bottled water is poised to overtake carbonated soft drinks as America’s largest beverage category by volume by 2017, or even sooner. It’s no surprise that Nestlé is #4 on our list, as Nestlé Pure Life is the largest bottled water brand in the world.

BMC released more findings about bottled water in conjunction with New York, and Boston-based Fluent, a leading college marketing and insights agency. According to the study, bottled water is the best seller within Generation Z, with 43% consuming it 7+ times per week and 42% planning to drink more of it. While 59% refill their water bottles from the tap or use a filtered water system regularly, 20% still rely solely on bottled water.

This generation is less interested in fad drinks and overly sweetened products, instead opting for healthier options. According to the survey, 43% of students regularly read labels and 38% read them at least sometimes. The top health claims students said influence their purchasing are “all-natural” (52%), “low-calorie” (37%), “organic” (36%), “vitamin-enhanced” (31%) and “zero-calorie” (27%).

There is much opportunity with beverage packaging to appeal to the overwhelming popularity, as well as the more health-conscious and informed Gen Z consumers. As the industry shifts toward single-serve, healthy and convenient, I look forward to seeing what’s next.

Launching a successful beverage package takes strategy

We spoke with Joseph Duffy, EVP of Design at Duffy, duffy.com to talk about just that.

Packaging Strategies: You’ve worked with a lot of major CPGs in the beverage space, what are the top three considerations for successful beverage packaging?

Joseph Duffy:

  1. Clear communication. Brands try to cram too much information on the package, especially on the front. There are many vehicles to market your brand and the front of the package is only one of them. Leverage digital, social, PR, marketing, trade and every vehicle possible to tell your complete brand story. Keep your package as simple as possible.
  2. Understand your surroundings. Sometimes you need to shout to be heard, and sometimes you need to be the calm amongst the storm. Do some homework to make sure you know where your product will be located on the shelf, whether it’s behind glass or in poor lighting and most importantly, who is all around you. You will likely not be able to dictate your spot, nor will the spot be the same from location to location, but having a point of differentiation to your competition is vital.
  3. Shop-ability is key. If your brand has various products and flavors, make it easy on your consumers to navigate and find the option they are looking for. Nothing good comes from a shopper picking up something they weren’t expecting. The likelihood of someone falling in love with something they picked up and purchased by accident is very low. (Try replacing someone’s regular coffee beans with decaf!)

PS: How does the rise in nutritional, healthy and functional beverages translate into the packaging?

Duffy: It’s huge. Especially if it’s ingredients or benefits that are new to consumers. More information requires more space to accommodate it. This is where designers who know how to work with and organize large quantities of information are needed. Having a complete understanding of the total communication strategy helps as well. Where else can all of this information live? How can you drive consumer understanding and information from one channel to another so when one arrives at the shelf, they are already informed about your brand? The goal is to drive traffic to purchase at shelf, not a random encounter when one happens to be walking by.

PS: What is your parting word to a start-up beverage company looking to be successful in today’s marketplace?

Duffy: It starts with your brand and communication strategy. Marketing and digital should be thrown in as well. You don’t have to figure everything out, nor do you need to execute everything on day one. But you should put it all on the table and look at it holistically, so you can break things out into phases and make sure everything you are doing aligns with those strategies. And a little bit of luck never hurt either.

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