Beverage Makers Leveraging Structural Design in Packaging

When it comes to beverage packaging, designers are using structural innovation to make every part of the pack perform.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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He adds, "The second main challenge is to keep the plastic weight down while generating the extra ‘gnarly' skate-park aesthetic. Beyond these two key issues, the usual structural performance [issues], such as top load, squeeze-ability and tool construction, still apply."

Innovations in decorating

As with closures and containers, beverage-packaging decorating techniques continue to grow more creative. Among these innovations is a pressure-sensitive wood-veneer label made with real wood. Jim Beam's limited-edition American Stillhouse Clermont Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was the first product to use the veneer label, which was developed by Multi Packaging Solutions, New York. The whiskey launched this July.

"Because it was a limited edition, Beam wanted something unique and different. The veneer plays [on] the bourbon, which is aged in wooden barrels," says Shawn Nevitt, printed packaging manager for Jim Beam, Deerfield, Ill. The label is made from cherry veneer backed with a thin PET film. Multi Packaging Solutions digitally prints the labels at its facility in Lansing, Mich.

A key challenge in developing the veneer label was assuring that it could be applied on Jim Beam's existing high-speed packaging line. In fact, it is running on that line, though somewhat slower than Jim Beam's regular pressure-sensitive labels, according to Nevitt.

Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill., took a different decorating tack for its Protea Chenin Blanc and red-blend wine. The Protea bottles are printed using a screen-printing technique in which nontoxic white ink is fused to the glass at a high temperature. The package is finished with a natural cork and standard foil capsule.

Fashion designer Mark Eisen created the Protea package graphics, paying homage to the wines' South African provenance with visual allusions to the protea flower (national flower of South Africa) and the Dutch trading history that shaped South Africa's Western Cape wine region.

The stylish, all-over printing on Protea bottles emphasizes beauty over branding. Brand identification is relegated to the bottle's capsule and neck tag, and product information is contained on the back label.

"We wanted to keep the front of the bottle focused on the unique design, so consumers would reuse the bottle," explains Mary Anne Sullivan, vice president-media relations at Terlato Wines. The brand's Facebook page ( shows some of the creative projects consumers have come up with for their empty Protea bottles. Examples include a chandelier and an olive oil dispenser.

"The first goal, the driving idea, was to transform something utilitarian -- the bottle -- into an object of beauty, not just with a lovely label, but in a deeper, more complete way," Sullivan says. "It really was all about beauty. Reuse and upcycling grew out of that, with the realization that, wow, these are bottles that you can fall in love with, that you don't want to put into the recycling bin."

She concludes, "That very basic, visceral reaction to the beauty of the designs inspired a new way of thinking of the bottle."

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