Beer bottles, or beer cans, that is the question…

by Kimberly Young

Or is it?

I don’t know about you, but our ears are still ringing from our time spent in Music City.  Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) has been written in permanent marker on our calendars for decades, and this year was no different.  Nearly 15,000 people gathered in Nashville, making it the largest Craft Brewers Conference to date.  We were able to talk labels and packaging with many of our favorite customers as well as meet many new brewers who stopped by.  As you can imagine, there were great questions and ideas flowing (along with the beer) – but one question seemed to control the conversation.

The never-ending debate… “beer bottles, or beer cans, that is the question…”  When it is all said and done we try to stay impartial in the battle.  However, we cannot deny that we are seeing significant movement from bottles to cans within the beer industry.  It doesn’t matter where you land in the great debate, Inland can help.

While at the show, we caught many brewers rubbernecking as they turned the corner by our booth at CBC when they saw our display of cans. “What kind of label is this,” they would ask.  We’ve got two key options on tap (pun intended) for cans.

Let’s start with pressure sensitive labels… Pressure sensitive labels, often known as “sticker labels,” are extremely versatile, reliable, and functional.  The great part about pressure sensitive labels is that there are endless opportunities to adjust the look and feel of the label between paper or film substrates, varnishes, die cuts, or specialty finishes such as foil stamping to make your packaging stand out on the shelf.  One of the pressure sensitive labels that caught the attention of many brewers coming by our booth was the Catawba cans.  This piece of packaging utilizes a clear pressure sensitive label which is almost invisible to the eye and is accomplishing a very comparable look to a preprinted can.

Let’s be honest, we could go on for days about all the cool things that could be done with your labels using a pressure sensitive label on a can, but there is more to discuss.  Next up… shrink sleeves.

Shrinks sleeves on cans have had huge growth in recent years in many end-use markets, with craft beer being only one of them.  Shrink sleeves provide a unique advantage as a label option for cans as it covers the entire package providing 360° of coverage.  This is a marketing team’s dream come true.  No wasted space on the can, and it can truly be filled with the brilliant color and crisp detail that pulls consumers in when sitting on the shelf.

Shrink sleeves are a trend in the marketplace, and what CBC goers really wanted to know was “what’s the story with the matte finish?”  In our goodie bag at CBC, we received an impressive shrink can with the matte finish that had showgoers’ interest peaked and wanting to know more.   Inland was glad to scream from the Nashville rooftops that “YES, we do matte on shrink sleeved cans!”

Some may be wondering why labels on cans are such a hot topic, and we find that it goes back to the fact that ordering preprinted cans tend to be a substantial financial commitment.  Preprinted cans have minimum order quantities that put pressure on brewers to potentially order more than they will ever use.  Many of the startup brewers that we spoke with at Craft Brewers Conference know that they are unable to entertain the idea of preprinted cans for reasons such as cost or even the concern about the space required to store an order of preprinted cans.  In turn, brewers are finding that they need an alternative and prefer to invest in blank cans and labels as their way of can decoration.

Now, even though there has been significant growth towards cans, beer bottles are not disappearing any time soon, we can promise you that.  Therefore, we cannot forget about bottles as an equally good option for your craft brews.  Labeling on beer bottles is something we’ve done for decades and some may even consider being a traditional way of packaging beer.

So, what are the options for labeling with bottles you may ask?  First things first, everything we said about pressure sensitive labels and cans above, applies to pressure sensitive labels on bottles.  You have the same options and capabilities with the label, it’s simply being placed on a different type of container.   Another hot attraction at our booth was the new Trim Tab labels.  We were giving away free labels! Yes, you heard me right, a free label!  But in all seriousness, people were loving them!  Once people got this label in their hands, conversations sparked!  This piece of packaging utilized a metalized substrate, but what really had people “oohing and ahhing” was the use of a tactile varnish.  This effect is achieved by using a high-build clear varnish in specific areas of a label that provides a look and feel of depth.

So, if you don’t go with pressure sensitive, what other options do you have…its simple, cut and stack.  Cut and stack labels are one of the most popular label types out there.  Cut and stack labels are glue applied and offer a variety of options from the most basic to the most premium looks out in the marketplace.  This label type takes us back to our roots in the beer market and truly offers an economical and production friendly option for craft brewers.  We offer extensive effects such as embossing, backside printing, foil stamping, and temperature-activated inks, to name a few.  Our offerings don’t stop there, because brewers can rely on our Innovation team to provide fresh new ideas to take their labels and packaging to the next level!  Our innovation process is one we are extremely proud of.  There is nothing we enjoy more than gathering our packaging squad together to throw ideas off the wall to bring fresh insights together to reach your brand objectives.  Innovations can range from making an unprecedented brand statement, digital customization, creating unique functionality within a label, or simply finding efficiencies to reduce overall cost.

We also don’t want to forget to mention, that shrink sleeves for bottles are another viable option on bottles that you don’t want to overlook.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you land on when choosing between cans or bottles, we’ve got you covered.  Packaging is the most important aspect of marketing your brand, so it’s important to take the time and make the right decision.  We are touching the surface of what options you have as a brewer.  Take a moment to peruse our presentation from CBC which hits on all of your label and packaging options, “Alternative Solutions for Your Craft Beer Packaging.”  We dive into the advantages of each packaging type, the investment that goes into it, and how Inland can guide you through the label and packaging creation process.  We are always here to help, answer your questions, and assist along the way.

Moral of the story, Nashville was everything we hoped and dreamed, Craft Brewers Conference was a hit, and when it comes to bottles or cans, we’ve got you covered.  If you are interested in samples of some of the fresh new label types we talked about, please click here to request free samples.  Cheers to another successful CBC!