European beer production fell from 2006-2010 in the EU27 states to 343m hectolitres*, and beyond the craft segment growth is sluggish at best, so packaging innovations can inject new life into an major industry worth €106bn ($140bn) across on- and off-trade channels in 2010.
On April 27 2013 MillerCoors launched its US ‘punch top’ can for smooth pouring across the country, allowing consumers to pierce a second, smaller can opening - that cuts out a ‘glugging’ effect due to trapped air while pouring.
This is a crucial aspect of the beer drinking experience that major brands focus on improving, where pouring also accentuates the color and consistency of a given beer.
Design differs from Miller Coors can
The European design differs from the its US cousin – rolled out by MillerCoors, pictured above – in that the punch hole located under the tab, to remove the potential pitfall of beer spraying everywhere – due to inadequate venting – if consumers punches the small hole first.
Marc-André Schoeppner, Ball Packaging Europe product manager, marketing, tells BeverageDaily.com that the ‘easy flow end‘ gives brands the ability to differentiate at a low cost, where studies show that once a consumer interacts with a package (taking it off a a store shelf, for instance) they are more likely to buy it.
Noting the MillerCoors launch in the States – where consumers were encoraged to pierce the second hole with pens, knives, dollar bills, etc. – Schoeppner says a similar innovation in Europe could create a “whole new drinking ritual” via sharing with friends, at barbecues, etc.
Low-cost, high impact innovation
Describing the launch as an “opportunity to differentiate at low cost” Schoeppner explains that market interest in added-value cans for high volume SKUs is high, but the cost per can is vital.
“Craft beer is really interesting but tends to be higher priced, and has high margins, so we can offer these customers different finishes, additional decoration on ends,” he says.
“For the flow enhancement feature (Easy Flow End), it’s more for the mass market. It’s relatively easy to create, doesn’t change logistics for our customers and doesn’t really impact price either.”
Schoeppner says Ball Packaging is talking to major European brewers, who are doing consumer tests with the end, and hopes to secure its first significant customer by end of September.
Crucially, as a high scale, low cost opportunity to differentiate one’s brand, Schoeppner says the ‘easy flow’ end will not change filling speeds. For instance, a great packaging innovation might cut speeds from 60000 cans/minute to 50000 “which can be a problem”.
“So this innovation has a high impact in terms of marketing and product value but has little impact on cost and none on filling,” Schoeppner says.
Silk & Shine finish effects ‘unique’
Asked whether Ball saw potential in other segments aside from beer, Schoeppner says pouring tests showed that the end allowed for faster and smoother pouring of carbonates, for instance.
“But there is less focus on drink color here, he notes. “And the key here is on-the-go consumption – you rarely pour carbonates out of cans, and you don’t get together with friends to drink fruit juice.”
“The beer market is way more interesting for us, given the rituals tied to the alcoholic segment,” Schoeppner adds.
Ball will also show its ‘Silk & Shine’ can printing abilities at Drinktec from next Monday, developed with its ink supplier, that allows brands to combine glossy and matt finish effects on cans, as per the picture on the left.
“Right now our engineers say we are the only people who can do this, and it also helps customers differentiate,” Schoeppner explains, tipping energy drinks, beer (craft especially) and RTD spirits or teas as sectors that could profit from the invention.
*SOURCE: Brewers of Europe publication: The Contribution Made by Beer to the European Economy (September 2011)