Metal Package Design Increasing in Popularity

Cans, tins and even aluminum bottles are tackling new challenges in brand-building and functionality.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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The Vented End is purportedly the first of its kind in the beer category in Canada. "We wanted to give our beer drinkers a packaging innovation that was fun and easy to use. The Vented Ends allow for a smoother pour," says Troy McCann, innovation manager at Molson Coors Canada.

The company distributed 50 million 473-ml Vented End cans throughout Canada during the summer months, "and initial consumer response has been great," McCann says. "People are always looking for packaging to do more for the product experience — and with this can, we've provided consumers the opportunity to unlock a smoother pour in a fun, engaging way."

A follow-up wave of distribution, begun in August, is rolling out 15-packs of Coors Light and Molson Canadian in 355-ml Vented End cans within the Canadian provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Separately, Anheuser-Busch has announced it will launch its own version of such a package — the 12-oz. Bud Light Vented Can. The company market-tested the can in Louisville, Ky., during the summer. The consumer opens the can using the pull-tab, then presses the tab back down against the top of the can to activate the vent. According to the company, the can will launch nationwide in the U.S. before the end of 2013.

Good-looking and functional

In other product categories, metal bottles are finding more applications. Vuka Intelligent Energy drinks, for example, launched in colorful 16-oz. Alumi-Tek aluminum bottles from Ball Corp. The format combines the best features of bottles and cans, with a wide mouth to drink from, a reclosable screw-top cap and no fear of breakage.

The lightweight bottle provides "the inherent benefits of cans. Drinks get colder faster. The recyclability is there," says Brody, of Ball. And although the Alumi-Tek package has been on the market for a few years, "it's still a relatively novel looking package, and so a lot of brands are using it as a way to differentiate themselves on-shelf, especially some of the newer players."

Vuka, Solana Beach, Calif., is in that group, he adds. Vuka "wanted to appeal to a more sophisticated adult audience that was interested in natural ingredients in an energy drink. And the Alumi-Tek bottle, especially with [Vuka's] really beautiful graphics, exudes that sophistication."

Slim-profile cans also are gaining popularity. Once again, the unconventional look and feel of the package, together with standout graphics, can help differentiate a brand.

Nutrié, Scottsdale, Ariz., took this route for its Fuel Premium Protein Shake, which launched in July. The company uses the Sleek aluminum can from Rexam, Chicago. Although the Fuel can holds 12 oz., it is more slender than a standard beverage can, and taller.

"The differentiation helps build brands on store shelves, and in addition, the Sleek cans are easy to grip and hold," says Greg Brooke, vice president of North American corporate affairs at Rexam.

The Fuel package also provides portability, durability and barrier protection from light — plus striking good looks. "What aluminum provides that other packaging materials don't is that reflective nature of colorful graphics, which truly stand out on a crowded store aisle," Brooke says. "It is also a superior environmental choice, with a recycle rate of 65 percent in the U.S., more than double that of any other beverage package."

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