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Buyers in High Spirits

Written by in Inspire, Packaging

Craft Spirits, Wine and Beer Keep it Real

The allure of wine, beer, and spirits packaging plays an outsized role in consumer appeal. Spirit, wine, and beer merchants offer vast arrays of alcoholic beverages. Consumers identify strongly with their favorite spirits brands. So getting them to sample new ones is a marketing challenge. Spirits packaging helps define the quality of the beverages and the kinds of people who enjoy them.

“People aspire to be a part of an exclusive and trendy club, and this puts much responsibility on the message transmitted on a 3 x 5-inch label,” says Ellen Bliske, a brand manager for Neenah Packaging. “This places much pressure on designers and brand managers to make a big impact with a limited amount of visual real estate.” Both the design and the label substrate need to align with and support the brand story.


Williams-Sonoma Sangria Mix packaging designed by Jenn David Design. The labels are printed on a thick, textured uncoated stock which enhances the design and creates a rich saturation of their bold colors.

Rare Real Estate: Wine Labels

“Branding is a concept winemakers understand,” wrote Sam McMillan in a Communication Arts article about winemaker Bonny Doon. “Labels are the result of creative briefs that communicate the taste of the wine, the price point, and what a consumer can expect in regard to quality… Savvy graphic designers and illustrators working with a new generation of winemakers are at the forefront of this revolution.”[i] Branding experts and their clients are reinventing marketing through the premium wine label.


Stoutnik Russian Imperial Stout (Longwood Brewery) label designed by Hired Guns Creative (http://hiredgunscreative.com/).

Millennialist Appeal: Beer Labels

Micro- and macro-brewing is big business. Across the world, craft breweries are challenging the dominance of brewers. This is good news for designers and printers because it means more work as they strive to create innovative labels for new craft ambers, stouts, and IPAs. Design, paper, and printing are helping drive sales with wit, quality, and compelling brand stories that appeal to new customers. We have entered the era of the “beer sommelier.”

Craft beer labels often feature an innovative mix of paper, colors, textures, and design that speak to the unique brand character of these brewers. Smaller breweries make small batches, opening the opportunity for the use of premium uncoated papers with beautiful textures and colors that give these products a more natural and genuine look and feel.

Digital printing is a cost effective alternative for small-batch manufacturers. Neenah Packaging papers are providing designers and brand managers more paper options that did not exist only five years ago. As small brewers lead with smarter branding and packaging, big brewers are feeling the pressure to up the ante with better packaging design.


Never Re-Gifted: Fine Spirit Labels & Boxes

Fine spirits have historically conjured up sophisticated images of great food, great times, elegance, and class. Today premium spirits brands use innovative, modern design, and packages fabricated from a variety of materials, including tin, wood, and paper. Bottlers use packaging to speak about heritage, craft technique, and highly individualized customer profiles.

As with the beer industry, such stories must be communicated on relatively small labels and packages. Spirits packaging also appeals to gift buyers–a beautiful box only requires a personally signed gift card and cheerful gift bag. According to Taylor Huber, president of Jack Rudy Cocktail, Co., “We thought we had a wonderful product and wanted to keep the label simple so that the quality of the product could shine through.  Our whole ethos is about taking people back in time to a place where there was more emphasis on slowing down, good conversation, and entertaining.  We think the simplicity of our labels convey an old time feel that represents that particular ethos.”

Packaging the mystique of the brand personality is as vital as the taste of the beverage itself. To tell such stories, premium spirit brands often use the same level of luxury packaging materials as the fragrance industry. This includes finishing effects such as foil stamping, embossing, and die-cuts. Additional elements are not uncommon, including bottle hangtags and handle straps for individual packages and cases that are made of rope, ribbon, or plastic.[iii]

Such embellishments communicate the tradition and craft. While these luxurious touches lend to the perception of value, the most popular material used in luxury spirits packaging remains paperboard, accounting for a projected 41.9% share of luxury packaging market value in 2014.[iv]

[i] Brand on the Run by Sam McMillan, Communication Arts: http://www.commarts.com/columns/brand-run

[ii] Craft Brewers Reach Double Digit Volume by Keith Gribbins, Craft Brewing Business: http://www.craftbrewingbusiness.com/business-marketing/craft-brewers-reach-double-digit-volume-share-2014/

[iii] What is Luxury Packaging? Smithers Pira: http://www.smitherspira.com

[iv] Luxury Packaging Market Forecast to Grow by 4.4%, Smithers Pira:  http://www.smitherspira.com/news/2015/march/luxury-packaging-market-forecast