Packaging Round Table: Beer

The GYK Antler Packaging Round Table is a recurring gathering where different GYK Antler team members discuss what’s standing out on store shelves. For each session, a product category is selected, and attendees bring their favorite product within that category based solely on the branding and packaging. Most recently, we focused on beer.
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The beer industry has been crazy for a while, and the past 5+ years have been no exception. According to Mintel reports, from 2010-2015 total volume sales of beer actually declined in the United States. Yet, the total dollar amount of sales has seen a 21% gain in that same time period.
How is this possible?
For starters, the craft share of the beer category has nearly doubled over that same timeframe. Consumers are moving away from mainstream beers. And, you cannot simply chalk this up to the rise of beer snobbery and pretention. (Although, I’m certainly guilty of both.)
Consumers are more experimental and explorative than ever. We like trying new things and are savvy about the products we buy. We like knowing where they come from and how they are made, even when it comes to booze. As such, grocery stores are carrying a broader range of brands in an effort to appeal to a younger consumer base. If you’re buying your beer from Hannaford, you’ll probably buy your groceries there too.
Additionally, new breweries are popping up all over. Take a look at what’s happening right here in New Hampshire. We’ve introduced relaxed nanobrewery laws, making it easy for anyone to start their own brewery. A nanobrewrey license in New Hampshire can be purchased for a measly $240. This low barrier-to-entry has helped more than double the number of breweries in New Hampshire since 2011. We now have nearly sixty breweries in our tiny beer-loving state.
This is all great news for the consumer, but it can also present an overwhelming amount of options.
So, what are beer brands doing to stand out on the shelves? Below, I’ve compiled five observations from our recent packaging round table.

1. The Renaissance of Cans


Cans used to have a bad reputation. Remember the saying? You can take the beer out of the can, but you can’t take the can out of the beer. For a while, most craft brewers steered clear of cans. That’s not the case anymore. Today’s cans have epoxy coating on the interior to prevent the metal from impacting the flavor profile. Plus, canning systems have become more accessible to breweries, and cans are cheaper to ship. Cans are also less cumbersome than bottles—it’s easier to bring them camping or poolside. As such, it was interesting to see that of the six beers brought to our packaging round table, five were in cans and only one was in a bottle.

2. Minimalist Approach


Happy 4th of July. #america #KABOOMsauce #HoboLife #stealthiscan

A photo posted by Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (@lordhobobrewing) on

Taking a minimalist approach to packaging has proven a popular tactic in the natural products space, and we’re seeing the same thing in craft beer. Simple packaging helps reinforce authenticity. As a craft beer made by real people using real ingredients, the packaging should reflect that clean, minimalist lifestyle.

3. Puns/Pop Culture


Breweries absolutely love puns. We’ve seen them all, from Bow Wow Yippie Yo IPA to Hanson’s MMMhops Pale Ale—yes, THAT Hanson. With nearly 5,000 breweries in the United States, options for unique beer pun names and pop culture references are running low. Honestly, in many cases this is fine with me. A lot of these puns have been absolutely brewtal to stomach—sorry.

4. Nontraditional Container


GLASSWARE GIVEAWAY! Double tap to enter + tag a friend that you’d like to drink with. ?Ends Tuesday 12/13 @ 7PM EST.

A photo posted by Beer is Culture. (@sixpoint) on

In an effort to stand out, breweries are experimenting with different container shapes. Our round table seemed split on their feelings toward this. Sixpoint’s can is skinny and sleek—reminiscent of an energy drink like Red Bull. Personally, I found this design favorable, while others in the group were adamant about wanting their beer to look like beer. Regardless, Sixpoint was one of the first beer brands that I saw utilizing this style of can, and it peaked my curiosity early on.

5. Beer as Aesthetic/Status


The beer you bring to a social gathering reinforces a stylistic vibe you are going for. In some ways, your beer is like your date. If you show up with a sixer of PBR, you’re putting out a much different vibe than if you were to bring something that you camped out in line to get from Foundation Brewing Company. I might not be able to afford a BMW, but I might stunt with a $15 six-pack. For many of us, this is our new definition of luxury.

What do you look for in a beer’s packaging?

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