Lifting Spirits

Stuart Pritchard April 8, 2016




We hear from Bob Houghton, Head of MarComms at MPS, on how packaging can be vital in reaching the right consumers…

Packaging plays an important role in underlying the value of a brand and in promoting a brand to new and established consumers. Packs offer huge opportunities for brand differentiation in terms of shape, print finishes and effects and opening experiences.

Despite the continued uncertainty in the global economy, established spirits markets are managing to maintain recent sales levels and some markets, such as North America, are actually growing again. However, the main source of growth, supported by enormous marketing budgets, has been in emerging markets. Here, value growth continues to outstrip volume growth and this is a clear demonstration of consumer’s ‘trading up’ from local spirits to more premium, aspirational international brands. These new consumers are buying provenance and a brand’s outer packaging is part of that experience. The gift value offered by premium packaging has long been synonymous with several parts of the drinks market, such as Champagne and Scotch whisky, and is now being recognised in up-and-coming areas such as rum and gin.


a)In 2015, MPS Bristol was presented with a coveted Digital Printer Award for a self-adhesive label

In 2015, MPS Bristol was presented with a coveted Digital Printer Award for a self-adhesive label

During the last few years there have been a number of exciting new packaging developments. The market is increasingly using board-to-board lamination which effectively combines two pieces of cartonboard to provide a strong construction. In addition, glued inner folded flaps, that remove the ‘raw’ edge of the unprinted cartonboard, present a quality finish for premium spirits brands. Varnish effects such as soft touch or silk screen textures which mimic naturally occurring materials such as leather, stone or wood grain as well as in-line reticulation are enhancing the tactile qualities of packs. 3D and holographic print that provide depth and the impression of movement are also in demand for gifting and brand extensions. Printed electronics are even now playing a part in on-trade promotions.

New materials, such as MPS’s Impressions™, can add differentiation to a pack by providing a 3D quality. Impressions is formed by using a specialist low-energy process which makes it possible to produce a depth of embossing that simply isn’t possible using conventional cartonboard. This tactile board can help to promote and complement a brand – from tactile bubbles on a tube to replicating the shape of a bottle.


b)MPS also claimed The UK Packaging Awards’ ‘Limited Edition of the Year’ for their range of packs for Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand

MPS also claimed The UK Packaging Awards’ ‘Limited Edition of the Year’ for their range of packs for Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand

Over the past few years, there have been developments in spirally wound and composite tubes that have further elevated this high-quality packaging format. The tube can be decorated in a limitless range of colours, enhanced by a foil, varnished or embossed finish.

Material choice and outer print finishes offer the choice of a smooth silky touch or the contrast of a tactile raised image. The appearance of a tin-plate container or the novelty of a tri-part tube are all possible. An extensive range of shapes – cylindrical, oval, triangular and square – are now available which allows further brand differentiation.

Adding an aperture to the pack provides product visibility allowing the purchaser to see the product as well as the front and reverse of the bottle’s label. The pack’s construction helps to maintain its strength despite the aperture and the pack now offers possibilities for many other products and markets.


MPS provides a full range of printed products to the alcoholic drinks sector, including self-adhesive and wet-applied labels, folding cartons, rigid boxes, composite tubes and shaped boxes. Its capabilities include a variety of complex and intricate finishes utilising lithographic, flexographic and the latest digital printing techniques on a range of substrates including board, plastic, paper and fluted materials.

In 2013, the company installed the world’s longest Heidelberg printing press especially suited to the demands of the drinks market. This has been followed by investment in a new state-of-the-art production plant at Arbroath, Scotland dedicated to rigid box production – and a new Domino UV inkjet digital label press to offer a fast, high-quality response. This dedication to protect and promote the world’s great brands see MPS help lift the value of premium spirits for years to come.