What is the state of the beverage can market?
Caroline Archer: Overall, beverage cans have remained a popular format for beer and carbonated soft drinks in Europe. The filling of beverage cans remained stable in the last year, and is forecast to continue to grow in 2011. Compared to other packaging formats, the can holds a 20% share in the beer sector and a 15% share for carbonated soft drinks (CSDs).
A major factor contributing to this growth is that the beverage can offers good value for money, together with convenience, making it the ideal packaging solution to address consumers’ changing lifestyles. For example, consumers have made a conscious decision to entertain and socialise at home, particularly during sporting events such as the World Cup. This shift in behaviour can be attributed to many factors, including consumers’ desire to spend less as well as issues such as the smoking ban legislation in Europe and the overall tightening of drinking and driving laws.
Consumers are also very enthusiastic about single-serve options, as they fit nicely into their on-the-go lifestyles. Single-serve cans represent the largest share of the beverage market and we expect to see that number continue to grow as consumer lifestyles have become increasingly fast-paced.
Big sporting events such as the recent ICC Cricket World Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup, have also had a positive impact on beverage can sales, with many brands using the can as a marketing tool to create excitement around the event. In addition, we’ve seen a number of customers install new can filling lines across Europe.
What other trends are you seeing that have contributed to this growth?
Archer: Overall, even as the global economy moves out of the recession, consumers remain price-conscious and are seeking the best value for their money. This is reflected, for example, by the increase of multipack beverage sales, which enable consumers to capitalise on bulk savings.
The increased demand for value can also be seen in the global shift towards private label brands, creating opportunities for beverage cans for fizzy drinks.
According to a report from Canadean, private label products in the soft drinks sector – which includes carbonated soft drinks, juices and water – now account for more than one in every 10 litres traded globally.
We also see opportunities for beverage cans in new segments such as wine, dairy and juices, which are best served chilled and often consumed on-the-go.
Beverage cans offer a more practical option when compared to other formats: they chill quickly and stay colder for longer periods, and are durable, addressing consumer demand for beverages in single portions that can be consumed outside the home.
Wellness, energy and nutraceutical drinks represent other growing sectors of the beverage market that cans are well suited for.
How can beverage brand owners capitalise on these trends?
Archer: To respond to consumer demand for value, beverage brand owners can use cost-effective packaging solutions. Beverage cans are an effective choice to achieve these goals, thanks in part to their many supply chain efficiencies. For example, beverage cans fill the fastest on packaging lines. They’re portable, durable and lightweight, facilitating product stacking and reducing costly product breakage throughout production and distribution.
Also, because of their strength, cans require only minimal secondary or transport packaging during shipment. These benefits create savings that translate into additional value for consumers, making beverage cans a key part of the packaging mix for brand owners.
It’s also important to mention that cans have a long shelf life and they preserve the freshness and taste of beverages, helping consumers reduce product waste.
Beverage cans are also available in many different sizes, allowing consumers to control portion size. Smaller cans, for example, make for a smarter purchase when children are the consumers.
With consumers being more willing to switch between brands, how can beverage brands create stronger connections with consumers?
Archer: Savvy marketers are leveraging innovative package designs. The designs are highly focused and meet the specific needs of the target audience to communicate positively to the consumer and have a strong impact at point-of-sale.
As a format, beverage cans bring certain advantages to the table. In addition to value for money and convenience for at-home or on-the-go consumption, beverage cans feature large printable surface areas which allow them to serve as modern and trendy marketing tools for positioning brands against competitors and creating differentiation on store shelves.
Emerging printing techniques allow beverage brands to create a premium look and catch consumer attention with contemporary, iconic designs. Complex imagery can be printed directly onto metal surfaces and significant detail such as faces, fruit, and fine text can be achieved with more realistic tones and natural imagery.
These standout graphics, made possible due to advances in high-resolution printing, speak loudly of innovation and make a bolder impact on the shelf. One example is Crown’s Pictoris high-quality print technology, recently used by Pret A Manger for the launch of its Pure Pret juice line.
Beverage brands can also use novel ink finishes on specific areas of beverage cans to increase interaction with a product and create a greater connection with the consumer. Some examples are Crown’s Soft Touch, which gives cans a satin-like feel, and thermochromic inks that can visually communicate when the beverage has reached its optimal temperature.
Can shaping and tab decoration are additional options to connect brands with seasonal promotions, sporting events or corporate themes.
In addition to value for money and finding innovative ways to position brands, is sustainability still an area of importance to consumers and brand owners?
Archer: Sustainability is an important issue globally. Consumers have become more environmentally conscious and are continuously looking for ways to reduce waste. Sustainable packaging can influence brand choice, especially when consumers are choosing between two similar products.
To address brand owners’ concerns, more sustainable packaging formats are being launched to help them support their environmental initiatives. For example, Crown’s SuperEnd beverage ends reduce metal use by 10% while enhancing convenience through ease of opening and ‘pourability’.
Brand owners must continue to consider the sustainability of their operations and packaging. Metal packaging has a particularly compelling sustainability story to tell. Metal can be recycled again and again and again, with no loss of or alteration in quality; something that cannot be matched by any other packaging format. In fact, the beverage can is the most recycled drinks pack in the world.
In addition, lightweighting efforts for aluminium and steel cans continue. Today’s technology has allowed can makers to reduce the thickness of can walls while still providing a high-performance container that retains critical barrier and strength properties.
The beverage market continues to evolve, with new flavour combinations and ingredients emerging all the time. How can packaging suppliers help beverage brands stay relevant and competitive?
Archer: Brand owners need to have a clear and detailed understanding of the market to determine what consumers want and be nimble enough to get to market quickly with new products.
Now more than ever, it’s important that suppliers offer a strong base of technical knowledge and production capabilities, together with industry experience. An industry partner that offers innovative design ideas and integrated product support is vital for beverage brands to stay on top of these changing market needs. Product design advice and dedicated innovation expertise are also necessary to ensure that can designs are feasible.
The key is to find a partner who can offer global expertise that acts as a backup to local presence and capacity. A structure of regionally based support staff is also essential for on-site troubleshooting.
At Crown, we consider our customers to be partners and vice versa, and we’ve found that to be mutually beneficial. Our global and regional can-making experience enables us to support brands in meeting local market demand, while our product testing facilities make short trial runs possible, reducing time from concept to retail shelf for new products and brand refreshes.
In order for brand owners to maintain consumer trust in their products, quality control and management of food safety and production processes are also crucial.
Crown offers specialised seaming support, for example, at its Seaming School in Perrywood in the UK, to ensure our customers have the detailed understanding necessary to optimise their processes.
Interview edited by Shaun Weston, managing editor of FoodBev.com. You can contact him here, or read his blog here. He’s also on Twitter
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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