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Cans offer brands great design opportunities

Martin Constable, chairman of The Can Makers explains how new drinks brands are enhancing the consumer experience through packaging design

Martin Constable The Can Makers

The can, what’s not to love? Consumers are drawn to products that taste great, simplify their lives and catch their eye; the can is lightweight, convenient, chills quickly, is easy to carry, often features vibrant eye-catching imagery and, of course, is infinitely recyclable. Retailers love cans too. They look great on the shelf, keep drinks fresher, more authentic tasting for longer, and utilise retail space efficiently, taking up less room on the shelf.

Cans are increasingly being recognised for their great design. In 2007, just 16 per cent of people agreed that cans looked good. That figure is now 44 per cent, according to a study by GfK for MPE and the UK Can Makers, which examined attitudes and perception to drinks packaging. With more exciting and innovative can designs hitting the market, this is a number that is expected to rise further. 

New brands are turning to packaging and can design as a way to differentiate themselves in a competitive sector. Consumers now want drinks cans that look cool as well as containing a product that offers new flavours and tastes great.  The Gfk study also reported that consumers agree drinks from cans taste good; they are perceived as delivering “good value for money” and “freshness”, as well as a “recyclable pack” that is “easy to drink from”.

The can offers a whole host of exciting design possibilities, making it a very appealing pack format that manufacturers and brewers are embracing. The growth of the canned craft beer movement in recent years has played an important role in changing the general perception of the can’s aesthetics. Bold, innovative designs are helping craft beer brands form, and cement an image of the can as a premium pack.

The recycling and sustainability feature of the can is also a key factor as to why suppliers are choosing this packaging format. The impact it has on the brand image in terms of its green credentials are becoming increasingly more appealing and important to consumers. The packaging with the best recycling story, combined with great design and taste is now the most attractive option.

Much of the innovation in the can is driven by the needs of the customer. It’s important to choose the right drink for the right package and the right package for the right venue/audience. Here are a few of the design innovations that make the can the ideal pack format:

360 designs

A distinct advantage of the can is it’s 360-degree canvas. Not restricted to just a label around the centre, the entire package can be transformed into a work of art – craft beers are a great example of some bold and creative designs that really stand out on a shelf.

Brands like Beavertown have led the way with colourful and eye-catching creations that attract the eye of the consumer. This push towards greater creativity is creating some exciting opportunities for designers and brand owners; the can presents them with a larger canvas through which they can innovate and gain an edge over competitors. 

One off/Seasonal designs

Digital printing has come into its own. Smaller batches of cans can now be designed as one-off, special editions for movie launches or special promotions or maybe to add some festive spirit to the product. These designs can be printed straight from computer to can quickly, making it ideal for small runs.

Thermo designs

Thermochromic inks allow surface areas of the can to change colour. This can be used to show when the beverage is the optimum temperature for drinking, so they can enjoy the product at its best and enjoy the great taste - brands want to make sure consumers enjoy the product and that the packaging doesn’t hinder the quality of the taste. Additionally, the industry is now overseeing the development of different colours and temperatures, heightening the fun consumer experience.

Pop-up straws

Pop-up straws are another fun way for consumers to be able to interact with the can and enjoy their beverage. It makes the experience more enjoyable for some consumers as they don’t have to tip the can to drink. It also offers a spill proof solution for those on the go. From a brand perspective, it offers another opportunity to add in logos or messaging by lasering onto the straw itself.

Resealable cans

The can is a convenient package, but this was improved upon even more in 2010 when the resealable can entered the market. Since then energy drinks and canned water brands have enabled their customers to enjoy their drink on the move and save some for later. This is a key feature for the younger generations who are looking for products that fit in with their lifestyle.

The can has come a long way since it was first used to contain beverages 80 years ago. It’s enhancing the drinking experience, especially in the craft sector of the industry. Every year we see new innovations launched to enhance the can for the benefit of the consumer, brand and marketer so expect more innovations in packaging design to be picked up by more brands and hit the shelves over the next 12 months.

6 November 2017