Cans Delivering Global Beer Growth

Aaron McIvor, Managing Director of WaveGrip

The global market for beverage cans is increasing significantly and, according to a report by Grand View Research, is expected to reach $60.92 billion by 2024.

Specifically, craft beer sold in cans was 23 percent of total U.S. dollar sales (or almost $1 billion) in 2017, according to market research firm IRI Worldwide, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracks category-wide sales trends at off-premise retailers. Bottles still represent the major share of sales, but there are definite trends that support the continued growth of can sales going forward.

Although cans’ suitability for a wide range of drinks is well established, their benefits continue to find favor in new and emerging markets. Flavor is not an impediment. A blind tasting of a Scottish craft beer suggested that the tasters— all craft beer lovers—could not tell the difference between beer stored in a bottle or from a can, challenging the old perceptions about quality. Such findings are a strong indication that canned beer could soon supersede that of bottles.

According to Nielsen, packaging and labeling is one of the primary purchase influencers for craft beer consumers. About 70 percent of buyers said they make their purchasing decisions at the shelf, and 66 percent of American craft beer consumers say that they are very or extremely likely to buy craft beer based on its packaging or label. The impact of packaging through design and color, is a primary impulse influencer.

Canned drinks can be sharp-looking and exciting to look at, offering the designer almost unlimited possibilities. Cans are particularly becoming popular among many craft breweries, who look to adopt an “urban-style” image for a younger appeal. The 360-degree billboard for branding design is powerful in contrast with front and back labels on a traditional bottle. In addition, high definition printing enables brands to depict intricate designs and strong, bold colors. This boosts consumer interaction while communicating a unique identity.

For the manufacturer, convenience is a leading factor in can popularity. Cans are lightweight, easily stacked and take up less space than other beer packaging. This provides storage and shipping efficiencies and limits overall transportation carbon emissions through logistics and supply chains.

With the greater influence of millennials in the marketplace, guiding significant changes in consumer opinion, brands are increasingly putting a focus on sustainability. For the consumer, a lightweight can is:

  • Convenient packaging—easily recycled and easily carried;
  • Works well for those who enjoy outdoor living, as they minimize the risk of breakage often associated with bottles; and
  • They offer a complete barrier against light and oxygen, which can affect a drink’s flavor and freshness.

Multipacks Carriers: When One is Not Enough

One major challenge for manufacturers is that consumers rarely buy cans individually. They require a suitable multi-packing solution to make them easier to carry. The growth in cans is leading drinks manufacturers to look at the opportunities for smarter multi-packaging solutions.

For the beer producer, this demand for multi-packing convenience must be balanced by the need to keep the branding completely visible. We already explained that the all-important artwork is a key part to cans’ growing success. You don’t want to compromise the branding by obscuring it. Meanwhile, because cans have a strong environmental profile, it is essential that any solution doesn’t impact on sustainability a great deal, either.

Rim applied carriers offer the ideal solution. By helping to reduce secondary packaging, they provide a number of key benefits:

  1. Environmental, reducing the volume and weight of material;
  2. Economic, reducing the cost of multi-packing; and
  3. Marketing, enabling the can to more effectively promote each brand.

Unfortunately, traditional rim applied solutions can involve complex machinery to be applied to the cans. In particular this has prevented smaller producers from adopting the technology. Recent developments in application technology have led to a greater range of applicators, including the availability of entry-level versions, enabling even lower volume producers, like craft breweries, to use rim-applied carriers from the earliest growth stages. New materials are also making rim applied solutions easier for packaging. New, non-stretch film can be applied by being “rolled over” the top of the cans and is at least 10 percent lighter than alternative multi-packing material while providing additional strength. Similarly, the increase in the demand for cans has also driven the launch of affordable, short-run contractor services, mobile canning companies and other choices when purchasing low- to high-volume in-house lines.

Rings of Color

The advent of color rim carriers offers additional brand impact. For a consumer in a hurry, color can be the guide that triggers the seamless progression from eye, to hand, to shopping cart. Outer packaging has a vital role to play in helping to deliver a fully satisfying customer experience. Extending an established color code with the carrier provides a simple, yet stylish, additional point of branding differentiation.

As cans develop a foothold in craft beer packaging, the right multi-packing solution makes a significant contribution. It does so by both supporting cans’ traditional benefits of branding, consumer convenience, product freshness and sustainability, while at the same time delivering the production efficiencies that are essential to success in competitive markets.

This successful combination of can and carrier make 4, 6 and 8-packs the perfect sustainable choice for a range of drinks—and those special craft beers—going forward.