Canned drinks: product differentiation more affordable

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

CrownSmart DataMatrix codes can be used to protect firms against counterfeiting
CrownSmart DataMatrix codes can be used to protect firms against counterfeiting

Related tags: Executive vice president, Printing

Various options for making a beverage can distinctive in terms of graphics, structure and additional features are becoming more affordable and will change the way brands differentiate themselves over the next few years, says metal packaging specialist Crown.

Dan Abramowicz, executive vice president for technology and regulatory affairs at Crown Holdings, underlined the importance of print quality.

“When you think about photographic effects, for example, both in terms of print technology and plate-making, we are moving towards ever-higher line resolution,”​ he said.

“Over the next year or two, you’ll see a lot of activity around digital print for bevcans, initially at lower speeds, but this will mean being able to expand the colour gamut and put digital text anywhere on the can.”

Other ink technologies such as thermochromics have moved on, said Abramowicz, so that you now have options for two-stage, reversible or irreversible changes. But these inks remained “very expensive”,​ he admitted.

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on our suppliers to come up with more cost-effective options that can be used more broadly.”

‘Cost-effective options’

Here, as in other areas, the challenge was to move from short-term promotional activity to longer-term brand identifiers.

“We started work with Heineken, for example, on shaped cans linked to a James Bond film promotion,”​ Abramowicz recalled.

“Then the brand started looking at shaping more broadly, and we came up with the Keg Can. Several years later, the novelty aspect of this design began to wane, and the question arose as to whether there were routes to more cost-effective differentiation.”

The result was Heineken’s move to a can lacquer that offered a tactile finish.

The same challenges of cost-effectiveness affect printed electronics, said Cormac Neeson, director of external affairs at Crown Technology.

‘Funded by the UK Government’

“We’re involved in a large project funded by the UK government to see how low we can bring the cost of printed electronics,” ​he explained.

Other partners on the project include the Centre for Process Innovation and Unilever. The aim is to have working prototypes for brand-owners within about three years’ time.

Crown also has its CrownSmart DataMatrix codes. These can be applied to the underside of the tab, making them accessible only after purchase.

The codes can be used as both an anti-counterfeit measure and a way of delivering exclusive content. They provide a link with the end-consumer, rather than the shopper, as well as yielding purchasing data.

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