O-I’s Marketing and Business Development Lead, Paul McLavin, reviews recent responses from the glass sector…
The return to growth for global sales of Scotch whisky, accompanied with an explosion in the number of new distilleries and gin brands, has brought a whole new level of dynamism to an already complex market for packaging. Glass has always been the mainstay of spirits packaging.
Although O-I has been closely associated with the mainstream markets, recent investments have equipped the company to support much smaller quantities of more complex and premium items, which is where most of the growth comes from. Many of these new brands require small volumes of premium quality glass, quickly and with minimal capital outlay. This is well met by premium standard ranges, which can be differentiated through the use of glass colour, coatings and decoration. A standard container has the potential to be turned into a be-spoke container through the addition of embossing.
HOOKED ON CLASSICS
Craft distillers and multinationals in North America and Latin America have taken advantage of Covet Classics™ luxury standards to bring their brands to market. Using the regal Imperial bottle from its Covet Classics Collection as a starting point, O-I created a distinctive
look for a limited edition “Master’s Keep” variant of Campari’s Wild Turkey brand. The design and engineering team was challenged to create a three-dimensional, sculptural form of a turkey in flight within the wall thickness of the bottle. This intricate level of embossment was achieved by the use of a forced perspective and distinctive changes in glass thickness. The overall effect has the appearance of cut glass, and the iconography appears as if it is formed into the sidewall of the bottle.
If the brand requires a bespoke bottle, the combination production system gives drinks manufacturers the opportunity to experiment with something new at very low volumes. Being able to go into production with only one or two moulds, running with other items means that O-I can support niche customers, with bespoke designs while minimising cost and risk. The company is also seeing an upturn in requests for non-standard glass colours. Black glass is well-established, used by successful brands like Hendricks and Highland Park Valkyrie. Extra flint provides much higher levels of visual clarity while customers as diverse as Bombay Sapphire and Jaegermeister demand a wide range of greens and blues. Red bottles for Skol Beats beer have moved into commercial production in Brazil. O-I is investigating in new colour options at its R&D Centre in the USA.
IN THE SPIRIT
Association and authenticity are key design cues for these new brands. Rocker Spirits, a micro-distillery based in Littleton, Colorado,
wanted to transport the consumer back to a simpler time when we made things with our hands and had pride in workmanship and
craftsmanship. Their design itself was based on a vintage oil can from the 1930s with a tilt feature for ease of pouring, which shows how glass takes the customer’s desired narrative and tells that story through the material.
Turning to the UK, premium Scotch whisky, both single malt and upmarket blends, is showing consistent growth. Highland Park has released a beautiful, heavily embossed bottle featuring an illustration which depicts an ancient Viking legend of a lion locked in an enduring battle with the forces of evil in the form of serpent-like dragons.
The most dynamic growth in the UK has been in gin, which has grown consistently since 2010. This growth comes from several sources, all served by glass packaging. There are the new distillers, like Silent Pool, growth in established premium, such as the Bombay Gin range, craft brewers diversifying into distilling, like Adnams and contract distillers, like Thames Distillers, supporting new entrants.
JUST THE TONIC
Many premium gin containers currently imported from continental bottlemakers, so the UK glass industry has further opportunity to
expand its own provision of gin bottles. A new standard design by O-I proves that UK craft distillers do not have to compromise on sustainability to achieve a luxury positioning for their small batch gins.
The EARL bottle offers the apothecary shape preferred by gin-makers, providing all the elegance they seek without the exceptionally heavy base. This results in a 600g container, creating a weight saving of 25% on the typical craft gin bottle.
The boom in craft spirits is being driven by Millennials, seeking authentic, locally sourced products. The generations who have popularised craft spirits are the same ones who put sustainability near the top of their value sets. This demographic influences every step from the newest small batch gin to the largest brands, from standard blends to luxury aged malts.
O-I and the rest of the industry is responding with customer-centric investments to give distillers the firepower they need for their highest volume brands plus the flexibility required for niche products and entrepreneurial distillers.