Curious Designs In Beverage Cans

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The year 2015 is a special year in packaging. This year Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle celebrates its 100th anniversary, the Beer Can celebrates 80 years of its existence and the very first Bag-in-Box saw its light 50 years ago in Australia.

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The very first (steel) beer can in Germany

About the development of the Bag-in-Box I will publish a separate article. The 100 years of the Coca-Cola iconic bottle is everywhere on the internet, so that I don’t need to write about that one. The beer can is a different story. Obviously the beer can hasn’t changed significantly in these 80 years. But that’s not quite the reality. Technically we have seen many improvements. In terms of design there have been many a tentativeness, but none really left the drawing board. A fancy shaped outer form of a beverage can isn’t getting a warm applause of the marketing boys and girls of the beverage industry.
So, is the design of the beverage can at a dead end? No, there still are designers with sufficient creativity to launch something different and then particularly in a hybrid construction. In other words the combination of a plastic can/tin body and a metal (mostly aluminium) cap or lid suitable for pasteurisation and/or sterilisation.

Some time ago I wrote about the Volksbier design of a beer-glass-resembling hybrid beverage can by Remark Studio SRL in Bucharest/Rumania.
The idea came from combining two increasing trends on the beer market, the implementation of PET as packaging material and the popularity of the metal beverage can.

Because beer is worldwide a popular drink and most appreciated brands have a German origin Remark Studio developed the brand name Volksbier and came up with the popular pint shape.

La Renarde
It’s well-known that the big international beer brands are in decline, while the craft beer brewers are booming. The general opinion is that the consumer is fed up with, what he typifies as, the watered-down corporate-made brew which tastes as dishwater. And, as always, the consumer has a point.

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Beer, industrial or craft, get its substance, what experts call body, or mouth feel, as well as any sweet and toasty flavours, from malted barley. With the malting process barley grains start germinating, which frees up their sugars for fermentation. USDA researchers analysed the US barley and beer markets, and found that craft brewers on average use four times more barley per barrel of beer than the giants do. In terms of quality this is very important. Take for example the Scottish single malt whisky. It’s made only from barley and not mixed with other grains. That’s why it has such a refined taste, in comparison with blended whisky. And that’s not much different for beer.

With the craft beer industry booming, every itself respecting country has one or more craft beer centres. So, also in Canada, where Montreal is a brewpub town, and a very good one at that, as people tell me. The brewpubs are a bit different than their American counterparts, which are often big and food-focused. In Montreal, the bar is usually short and small tables pushed together make up the bulk of the seating. Food is sort of an afterthought, which is fine, since there’s not a lack of good food elsewhere in the city. A chalkboard hangs around the bar displaying the draft list of beers brewed on site. The beer is served in imperial pints (20-ounce), verres (12-ounce), or pitchers.

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Besides the direct consumption at the bar, there is a take-away sales. And this offers beautiful options for special packaging.
Guillaume Boudreau of design agency Remarke, (Fun note: The Montreal design agency Remarke must be a stepsister of the Rumanian design agency Remark, see above. Both in beer and hybrid beverage cans with almost identical names) created for Brasserie Montréal a hybrid glass/aluminium beverage can for its La Renarde beer brand. The 300 ml “beverage can” is made from recycled glass and has a lid with stay-on-tab, made from recycled aluminium.
The beer can be drunk via the stay-on-tab opening in the lid, but, and this is special, the lid itself also can be removed completely, leaving the consumer with a real glass to drink from.

There are two more developments in hybrid beverage cans. Both are, however, a bit dubious, as actually nothing is known about them, just a few photos.

141134-animacjaThe first is an illuminating hybrid beverage can, the Akvo (akvo means water in Esperanto). When you visit the website of the company in the UK, Stadmar Ltd, you find the website under construction already for a period of more than 6 months. No information there.
Apparently the design is originally Polish and comes from the aerosol manufacturer Zakład Napełniania Aerozoli „Stadmar” in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a town in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie, southern Poland.

The hybrid 330 ml beverage can is said to be made from PET with an aluminium lid with stay-on-tab. But there also are various designs of different cans, including a kind of aerosol.
The light in the bottom of the can flips on and off, but there is no information of its goal, except that you can think of some marketing kick. How it’s done and working, I don’t know.

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The second dubious design, in terms of doubtful usefulness is the “Burn Animated Can”.

Burn Animated Can
Created by Djordje Djukanovic, a designer in Belgrade/Serbia the Burn Can is capable of “lighting a fire”. This pinstriped can works when the top is turned clockwise to simulate a growing fire. On the back, the name repetitively crosses the bottom of the bottle to the top in a vertical formation.

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This was an experimental project for burn Residency promo pack. The idea was to make the world’s first ever animated can with no batteries or any other additional installation and to turn a product into a brand experience.

Djordje Djukanovic only used aluminium, paper and plastic foil.

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More than pure aluminium or steel beverage cans, hybrid or dual-material beverage cans are attractive to experiment with as they gear toward the insatiable thirst of marketing for stand-out packaging.
Consumers want to see what they are drinking, and that could only be realised with bottles. But the most popular beverage container is the can. With the technology of dual-material beverage cans, the two consumer preferences come together.

I expect to see more fancy gimmicks as the hybrid beverage can takes off.

4 responses to “Curious Designs In Beverage Cans

  1. Shrink Sleeve labels for Micro breweries

    It be might be more effective and colorful to consider the use a shrink Sleeve on these cans. Easier and way smaller minimums for seasonal and craft breweries and promotions. More colorful graphics and better defined. You also cannot even tell the can has a label on it, since it fits the can perfectly. Less expensive, lower minimums and less storage room for inventory. It can also allow one can to fit all brands within a brewery. this would decrease changeover costs and time increasing efficiencies!

    • Theresa, you miss the point completely. In the first place the article isn’t about labelling. Secondly the specific of a hybrid beverage can is that the body is of transparent PET to see the content or whatever else the manufacturer want to show the consumer. I’m well aware that there are transparent shrink sleeves, but why use one?
      Furthermore La Renarde is made of (recycled) glass to give the consumer a genuine beer glass to drink from after removing the lid. No shrink sleeve is welcome. It’s the same with Volksbier, although that’s not glass but PET. The two other designs are just fun (for whatever marketing reason). Shrink sleeves frustrate the effect.
      Your whole story about shrink sleeves has nothing to do with the article I wrote and the small brewers are advised to take a look at digital printing straight on the can.

  2. Hi Anton,
    Another very interesting article, thank you for this.
    I would guess that the designs that favour lighting might also be aimed at different distribution channels to those that seems to take advantage of hybrid pet/glass usage… I dont have the specific figures for where craft is being distributed but on a micro level in London, I know most enthusiasts would be put off purchasing a blinking can or bottle in their local pub or from a brewery, but those same blinking lights might make the difference in a club or bar or somewhat darker and noisier environment.
    For the above, do they lead to issues at end of life with recycling or streaming if they have LEDs, split materials etc?
    Kind Regards
    Matthew Rogerson
    Packaging Today, Packaging and Converting Intelligence, Beverage Packaging Innovation, Converting Today.

    • Matthew, thanks for your comment. Without doubt the lighting beverage cans and bottles aren’t and never will become a part of the mainstream. It’s a curiosity and some marketing gimmick and that’s it. I doubt the consumer is looking seriously at this type of developments, except when he is jumping around in a bar or disco.
      There is little known about the used material, but it’s clear if LEDs and batteries are involved, recycling in the mainstream is impossible and I don’t see a bartender separating material before he discards it. BTW the “burning can” is said to have only used alu, paper and plastic foil.
      In my opinion these aren’t really serious developments, only just for the marketing boys and girls to get a kick out of it.

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