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A Shift in Beer Packaging Requirements

The old cliché that it’s the beer inside the can or bottle that matters still undoubtedly holds true, but the rise of craft beer has made packaging a key part of the equation.

This change hasn’t only manifested itself in label art; even the boxes used to transport beer – once purely functional – have become a way to reinforce the brand and influence purchasing decisions in such a competitive environment.

A proud SIBA and LBA member, we have been working with the brewing industry for decades, and witnessed this shift first hand, as customers arrive with more specific requirements from their packaging, or looking for a more creative approach to packaging design.

Our Business Development Manager Stu confirms the days of everyone simply wanting “a plain brown box” are long gone, and that the best solution depends entirely on how the box will be used and what it contains.

Of course, since the primary function of almost any packaging is to ensure the product reaches its destination unscathed, the actual construction is a serious consideration, balancing protection against cost and (often) a desire to limit packaging and use recycled material.

(Pictured below is Ben our Technical and Design Manager using our in house packaging design software.)

Beer Packaging Clever Design 

“For a start, you need to know whether it’s going to be cans or bottles,” says Stu. “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is more premium craft beers going into cans; as well as being better for the beer, cans are more robust than bottles, but are still prone to dents if not packaged correctly. You also need to factor in whether shipping will be handled by the brewery, in which case you probably don’t need quite so much protection, or whether it will be sent by courier, which might call for something more robust.

“It is also important to remember that flat boxes take time to assemble and pack, and then to unpack and break down at the other end.” Stuart advises this work should definitely be factored into any consideration of the cost efficiency of a particular design, we always works closely with our customers to find the solution that makes most sense across the entire cycle – as any good packaging manufacturer would.

Stu continues: “The next big question is how the packaging will be used. It may just be for getting the beers from the brewery to the distributor, and into the shop where the individual bottles or cans are unpacked or put on display. Alternatively, the transport packaging may also double as a display, in which case the box becomes a tray that sits on the shelf. The rise in mail order and subscription services could mean the box is being shipped direct to a customer. It could even be a gift pack, in which case the visual element obviously becomes very important.”

“Craft breweries are increasingly looking for something a bit different,” says Stu. “They want to give their packaging an edge; especially if it’s a gift pack, they want their product to stand out from the one next to it on the shelf, communicate the brand’s values and give a lasting impression on the customer. A lot of these guys have absolutely amazing artwork on their bottle or can, and that’s a big part of their brand, so they want that replicated on the box as much as possible and it would be silly not to!

“Often you’ll speak to people who know what they need to achieve, but really don’t know how that might look in practice, so you’ll give them a bit of guidance about what you’ve done before that’s worked. Others will have a very definite idea about their design, but perhaps their print concept is too complex and could be made more cost effective with some tweaks; our aim is always to get the effect the customer wants at the best possible price.”

When it comes to applying artwork to a box, it again very much depends on the box’s specific purpose. We guide our customers as to how their artwork will sit on the packaging and make suggestions to optimize this along with recommended print finishes to enhance the customer purchasing experience.

“There is a range of printing options available when it comes to packaging but with a four-colour lithographic print process you can achieve something that looks almost photographic on the box. That’s a premium look, with a bit of work and guidance it’s also possible to get a great effect with a two-colour flexo print process.”

Beer Packaging Clever 

Working with our customers to find a tailored beer packaging solution is the most important part of what we do here at Saxon Packaging, particularly as brewers and retailers tend to have more specific and complex needs than they did a decade ago.

The ability to listen, understand and put forward a structural packaging design that strikes the right balance is key.

This collaborative approach has paid dividends, as many of our largest brewing customers started off as small inquiries via our website. “It is always gratifying to see these breweries grow and evolve, and continue to work with the company as they go through different packaging iterations over time.” said Stu.

“Our skill is building partnerships with people and help provide a packaging solution for our customers that is bespoke to their needs” he says. “If it’s a straightforward brown box we’re happy to do that, but one of the things I love about working with breweries is how keen the craft guys are to try something different, and to work with us on something genuinely creative. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.”

To discuss your packaging requirement email or call 01502513112.