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When it comes to beverages, particularly fizzy drinks such as beer and carbonates, the glass bottle is generally perceived as delivering a high-quality consumer experience. In 2013, metal packaging manufacturers seem to have taken this as their main challenge, coming up with various innovations which aim to not only enhance the experience of drinking from a metal beverage can but also generally improve the perception of this packaging format. Euromonitor International’s latest beverage packaging research, which has just been published, reveals how this has paid off, with beverage can volumes growing by 1.9% in 2012, three percentage points higher than forecast in our last edition.
One way in which the metal beverage can can improve its consumer appeal is through greater functionality. This is perhaps nowhere more relevant than in beer. In Brazil, for instance, where there has been an increase in demand for more premium beer, A-B InBev chose in 2012 to trial the use of thermochromic ink on its Antarctica Sub-Zero brand. Developed by leading metal can manufacturer Rexam, the 350ml can changes colour to inform its user that its contents are cold enough to be consumed. In the Netherlands, major domestic lager brand Grolsch, known for its glass bottle with a traditional swingtop closure, also differentiated its 330ml cans in 2013 by fitting them with a foil-based “quality liner” inside. The extra layer aims to preserve the taste of the beer by eliminating direct contact with the can so as to better compete with the glass bottle.
Some brand owners have even decided to reassure consumers about hygiene standards when drinking from a can. By adding a plastic closure to the container, brands are not just conveying the message that the product is well protected from any contamination when sold to the end consumer, they can also offer some level of reclosability, once again so as to better compete with bottles. Beer brand Colonia is an example in Brazil. In carbonated water in Spain, using a plastic closure was perhaps even more key for brand Vichy Catalán when releasing the only metal beverage can available in this category.
The impact of such innovations on metal beverage can volume growth is perhaps small. However, beyond the added value being offered to consumers, these developments enable brands to be seen as more modern and appealing.
Another way to compete with glass bottles and other common pack solutions such as PET bottles in carbonates is to be largely involved in brand owners’ strategy of engaging with consumers on a more individual level. The can has had a particularly strong presence in Coca-Cola’s global “Share a coke” campaign, where containers are labelled with the most popular first names in each country. In Singapore, in 2013, Coca-Cola has also trialled a novel beverage can that splits into two units to enable sharing among friends.
A more cultural approach has also been adopted to connect more deeply with consumers. In Brazil, a major music festival in Rio in September 2013 saw Coca-Cola enable its fans to listen to some of the featured artists online by typing in a code displayed on their Coke can. Meanwhile, the group’s main rival in carbonates, PepsiCo, favours the approach of a celebrity brand ambassador, this year signing up international pop star Beyoncé to appear on its cans. Energy drinks giant Red Bull took a similar route in Spain, launching a limited edition version of its iconic 250ml can printed with designs by artist Andi Rivas.