A 2016 WestRock study on craft beer purchasing habits indicated that craft brewery consumers spend three to four times the amount of time browsing in-aisle than macro beer buyers.1 While features like the variety, flavor, or brand of a craft beer are all decisive considerations for shoppers, this metric illustrates that the need for craft breweries to differentiate themselves is more imperative than ever if they want to attract and retain customers.
“Packaging is a consumer’s first impression of a brand,” said David Hayslette, WestRock Director of Business Development for Craft Beverages, adding “it’s crucial that brands stand out on the shelf from the onset.” Hayslette cautions that this rings especially true with the diminished growth the craft beer industry is currently experiencing.
Over the past several years, as the retail market began trending towards localization, a surge of craft brewery options appeared in stores nationwide. However, recent industry growth has slowed significantly, dipping to eight percent in 2016,2 a marked drop from the nearly 13 percent growth experienced the year prior. With this decline in market growth, the need to break through to consumers and retain loyalty has become crucial.
Packaging needs to be more than a matter of the visuals printed on the box - it must convey a brand identity in a way that resonates with consumers. This kind of differentiation requires an innovative approach to design that conveys a brewery’s unique narrative while also upholding functionality. “Navigating packaging can be difficult for craft breweries,” said Hayslette, “but we’re always excited to develop custom solutions that address the unique needs of our individual craft brewery clients and drive results.”
As brewers evaluate the effectiveness of their packaging, Hayslette encourages them to start by taking the following actions:
- Assess your overall packaging strategy (formats, costs, etc.).
- Gather feedback about branding/messaging and be willing to adjust if consumers are not clear.
- Talk to your distributors about what works and what does not.
- Simplify and rationalize your packaged beer portfolio.
“Simple packaging changes can have a monumental impact,” said Hayslette, adding, “changes as small as choosing paperboard over plastic packaging generate higher levels of notice and purchase intent.”
Steering craft brewers through questions and considerations like these and helping brewers develop practical packaging that is authentic to their brand is a passion for Hayslette and his team. “One of my favorite package designs was the Higher Volume Variety 12-Pack we did for Sixpoint Brewery,” said Hayslette, adding, “we were able to take their love of music and turn it into a boom box-inspired 12-pack that really conveyed the essence of their brand while serving a practical purpose.”
Growing your brand and gathering a loyal following is about more than just the beer, it is about the image that accompanies it. Creating beer packaging that resonates with consumers is a necessity. Your product’s packaging will be the consumer’s first introduction to your product – make it count.