Building a beverage brand is a daunting task. The cost of flavor R&D, bottling, and shipping (my goodness, the shipping!) is enough to detract brands from moving into the beverage industry. But what do you do when your product is so good that shelving the idea is a disservice to society? You put your grown-up pants on, slam money on the table, and publicly announce plans to dominate the beverage market. Let’s learn how to create a beverage packaging design strategy that performs on-shelf.
Product Packaging For Beverages
There is perhaps no more important market for custom packaging than beverage brands. Bluntly put, you will fail if the consumer does not notice your drink innovation. Since beverages offer less opportunity for mom-and-pop distribution and direct-to-consumer strategies, the biggest, baddest brands in the beverage market will be your packaging competitors.
So after slamming money on the table, take a cut from the cash and put it aside. Reserve this money for hiring the best agency in the beverage packaging design field. In this competitive landscape, a shortcut on package design leads to a short shelf presence lifespan for your product.
Beverage Packaging Design Strategy
When we say custom product packaging, this doesn’t mean you need to be, as was the innovator of box wine. While that may be a unique design approach, there are less subtle ways to distinguish your product. There may be smaller yet more impactful methods for holding the consumer’s attention for long enough to enter the consideration phase.
When considering your beverage packaging design strategy, start by looking around, seeing what already exists within the subcategories of the market.
Borrowing From the Beverage Industry
Oscar Wilde said that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” Having a swipe file of beverage packaging and label design examples is the first start. By looking at beverage packaging examples, you will have opportunities to leverage what already exists within the industry.
It is also a great way to find gaps where ideas have not yet surfaced.
Since the amount of subcategories in the beverage industry is plentiful, you can look at non-competitive products for creativity and to stimulate ideation. Let’s review those categories now.
Soda Pop Packaging
Soda became the first widely marketed beverage category, and it still holds much of the same classic packaging design from its origins. Beverage brands in this market understand the need to stay current yet embrace the historical look consumers recognize.
Coca-Cola offers a good example of this. They use a purchase driver promoting their 100% recycled eco-friendly packaging, yet it holds almost 100% of the brand elements that encourage consumer recognition.
Contrary to most sustainable products, Coca-Cola does not use shades of brown and green to promote its natural beverage package.
Energy Drink Packaging
Convenience + stimulants + a great taste = a recipe for success.
But a recipe that is this successful creates a heavy competitive landscape for this beverage category. Brands will always chase a category experiencing a sharp rise in consumer demand.
Loud colors filled the coolers stocked with energy drinks. Unfortunately, their “hey look at me” designs didn’t work as they expected. Being the loudest did not translate into a revenue takeover.
Historically, when creating their beverage can, popular energy drink companies found a balance between attention and appeal. Every major brand, including Red Bull, Monster, and Bang, strategically chose from the color palette. We can take a lesson on the energy drink category that bright packaging isn’t always a bright idea.
Packaging For Alcoholic Drinks
It’s no wonder that alcohol containers have unique and innovative packaging. With the price of alcoholic beverages being higher than other beverage categories, they yield greater gross profits. But you do not need to sell beer, wine, or liquor to take advantage of their packaging strategies. You can borrow from their concepts since costs become lower when a packaging company can scale production.
Piggy-back off these concepts. Look to the alcohol industry as the early innovator and then identify the cost-effective opportunities to borrow from their packaging concepts.
Here is a category where brand identity is a requirement for shelf success. Customers already know the general benefits of water (uh, it keeps you alive!). What consumers do not know is how brands treat, process, and package the water.
Water brands have done an incredible job of creating a brand story. They market their products by creating an appeal that resonates well beyond hydration. We can look at water brands for sustainability, storytelling, and building a compelling argument about why a free resource demands a premium price.
This results in a brand loyalty strong enough to make psychologists say, “we should research that.” When you watch someone walk around with boxed water, recognize the statement they make by promoting this attention-grabbing packaging solution.
Nutritional Drink Packaging
If fitness experts agree that most nutritional drinks are garbage, why do they hold such a strong shelf presence? The answer; consumers don’t really understand what to look for on the back of the label. It is the front of the nutrition label that has the greatest impact on purchasing decisions.
Nutrition drinks have done a great job of keeping the main thing the main thing. They know the purchase drivers that work and beyond this point; they keep packaging simple.
With that said, we believe this category is primed for disruption. Contact us if you are a beverage company looking to break through the nutritional drink category. Our package design testing process will identify opportunities where you can win on-shelf.
Wellness Beverage Packaging Design
Functional beverages are all the craze but visit any last chance discount grocery chain, and you will notice a trend. Infused wellness beverages own a sizable chunk of the discounted rink aisle. Bargain markets sell these specialty beverages for approximately 20-40% of what their retail cost.
This results from mediocre product packaging. Trending ingredients come and go, but even at their peak, communicating a purchase driver needs to be more unique than “with l-theanine.”
A beverage brand can and should sample many of the wellness drinks in the market. It is important to understand how closely a product’s flavor illustration matches the actual taste. Functional beverages can be hard to flavor and many brands market a 10 out of 10 flavor explosion when, in reality, it is a bitter six.
When expectation does not match, the product’s destiny is direct to the grocery discounter. Not a good look for a new brand…
Juice packaging traditionally includes an aesthetic approach. Whether it is the oversized pourable jug or a squeezable package, juice drinks encourage a seamless flow from package to product.
Unfortunately, the sleek look is not enough to undermine consumers’ high sugar content concerns. The juice industry is experiencing a decline, but as with any recession, opportunities are available to those who look for them.
Hydrating juice products with reduced sugar content and a nourishing appeal are doing well. Tree Tops Fruit + Water recognized this opportunity but knew that competition was coming.
By working with our packaging design company, they made the choice to optimize their healthier juice drink for maximum purchase intent.
Beverage Packaging Design Trends
Having reviewed design examples from several categories, we turn our attention to consumer trends. Putting aside branding for a moment, let’s explore the opportunities that packaging manufacturers can provide.
Sustainability in Beverage Packaging
We have known for years that recycling bottles is a good idea, but how many of you knew what that bottle would become? Now, with sustainability on the rise, natural beverage brands have captured enough market share to force corporate brands to take action.
Like the example with Coca-Cola, nationally distributed beverage companies are shifting towards a sustainable business model. Eventually, the term sustainable will become white noise and beverage companies will need to differentiate. Brands will need to take a lesson from water companies and tell this process similar to “from the source.”
Merging the In-Store and Online Experience
With the emergence of Amazon and Smartphones, we witnessed heads drop into phones when shopping for consumer packaged goods. But this rarely affected the consumable CPG products, since saving a quarter wasn’t worth the effort.
Now, however, we have an additional reason to grab our phones and search. Smart packaging with QR codes, NFC, and RFID chips can increase the experience a shopper has with our product. The longer the experience, the longer lasting impression we leave in the consumer’s brain.
The effectiveness of smart packaging depends on the demographic. A mom with a screaming toddler will not take time to search out your frozen popsicle recipe when choosing a juice box. They’re looking for kid friendly packaging they can quickly handoff to a screaming toddler.
Smart CPG packaging is better served for the Gen Z who has embraced the experience economy. If this generation gives thought to how unique shoelaces help connect a culture, it’s possible that smart juice boxes make them feel a part of the brand.
A Healthy Focus
Every consumer journey is unique, especially those focused on making healthier choices. The job of the packaging designer isn’t to tell people where they should be, it is to meet them where they are. Brands recognize the growing trend for healthier choices and are positioning their products one step closer to the invisible finish line.
At the beginning stages, we see sugar-filled sodas switching to natural sugars. At the end of a journey, it may be a diet drink changing its sweetener from aspartame to stevia. For an alcoholic beverage, it might transition from commercially farmed sources to organic ingredients.
How can you position your product one step closer to the healthier mindset of the consumer? Make this conversation a part of your brand strategy.
Premium Packaging at an Affordable Price
Glass bottles increasing in popularity is a sign that consumers want premium packaging. Water in a glass bottle obviously tastes better than a plastic bottle, right? Whether you agree or disagree with this statement, consumers believe that packaging changes the experience (even taste) of a beverage.
As mentioned, when production increases for specific types of packaging, there is a decrease in pricing. Can your product differentiate itself by using a premium package, proclaiming shelf space previously held by boring packaging designs?
Using basic bottles and cans may not be enough to showcase your beverage innovation. Consider giving some extra love to your packaging that brings freshness to a stale beverage category.
Packaging Design That’s Proven to Perform
Want a best-selling brand? SmashBrands proprietary consumer testing methodology ensures that your product outperforms the competition. Through our package design process, we take care of everything and will guarantee actual market outcomes for your brand.
Discuss your project with our team.