You’ve created a great-tasting and totally unique beverage formulation—that’s great! But now, comes the next hurdle: figuring out the best way to package and present your dream drink to your consumer. Of course, packaging isn’t just about serving up your product in an attractive way; it also involves taking care to protect the quality of your beverage, making it easy to ship and stock on store shelves, as well as ensuring that pertinent information about your brand and the product inside are communicated appropriately.
While most of today’s commercial drinks are packaged in plastic (PET) bottles, there are an increasing variety of beverage packaging types, shapes, and sizes available to choose from, each of which come with their own benefits and challenges. As you search for the appropriate packaging solution for your unique beverage formulation, there are a few things you’ll need to consider—here’s 6.
1. Explore Your Packaging Material Options
First of all, you’ll need to decide on how you want your beverage presented on the shelf—primarily, what kind of container you plan to package with. While there are a multitude of options available, you’ll need to balance your vision with the realities of cost and availability. You’ll also have to evaluate the compatibility of your choice with your drink’s unique formulation, processing, and labeling requirements.
The material type you choose matters because each affect variables like weight, sustainability, shelf life, shape retention, and resistance to temperature, among other things. We’ll cover three of the most common types, including plastic, glass, and metal, though you are encouraged to do your own research to find the best option for your product.
One of the biggest benefits of plastic packaging is that it is easily shaped, lightweight, and durable—there’s a reason why plastic (PET) bottles continue to be one of the most popular beverage packaging options in the industry. Thanks to innovations, improved processing methods, and material enhancements, plastic can also handle pressurized liquids like carbonated beverages. The fallbacks of plastic include a shorter shelf life compared to glass or metal containers of the same size, and it isn’t as much of a sustainable option.
Glass is one of the oldest packaging materials still used in the beverage world. It benefits from a premium feel and high recyclability factor. Unlike plastic, it also is generally impervious to CO2 loss and O2 ingress, giving it a longer shelf life. Of course, there are still several notable tradeoffs; for example, glass is incredibly heavy and breaks easily, which can make shipping a substantial challenge, especially when secondary packaging (film wrap, paperboard, plastic carriers, etc.) is not adequate.
A majority of the world’s drink cans are made of aluminum. This material is lightweight and highly recyclable—and currently tricky to source in the desired can form. In fact, global cans shortages have created a real headache for beverage producers, so before you set your heart on metal packaging, understand the challenges you might face in stocking your materials. For some, it might be worth the hassle. Aluminum cans are great at omitting light, unlike glass and plastic options, and they are effective in keeping out oxygen and maintaining CO2, making them great for longer shelf-life applications.
There are also material costs to consider. Plastic bottles can range from 12 to 40 cents depending on the type (those accommodating special processing will be more expensive). Meanwhile, a 12-oz. decorated can will typically run about 15 cents per unit at average introductory order minimums, whereas you can expect to pay about 40 cents per unit for glass bottles.
You can cut your per-unit costs by purchasing or producing in higher quantities; however, both options will require a larger amount of capital which you may not have until your business grows. Other tips for reducing your COGS can be found here.
2. Select An Appropriate Co-Packer
Once you know what type of process and packaging your drink requires, you will need to find a contract manufacturer—also known as a co-packer—who is equipped to accommodate those needs and produce your beverage.
When selecting a co-packer, you should consider the following:
- What are their processing capabilities?
- What is their minimum production volume?
- What types of packaging are their lines able to fill?
- Do they have the proper licenses or certifications you require?
- Do they follow current Good Manufacturing Practices?
- Does the facility participate in an annual third-party audit? What do they score?
- Where are they located in relation to your distribution area?
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of working with any co-packer and be aware of all the fees involved to make sure you are getting the most for your money. Finding a co-packer within close proximity is great, but only if other considerations ensuring the quality of your beverage are met.
3. Understand Your Labeling Requirements
Once you pick a container type, co-packer, and label application for your beverage, the next step is to obtain a template of the area in which the label artwork will go. Templates are generally supplied by the company where you buy your beverage’s containers.
Depending on how you’re going to apply the label to the container, there are different templates: they might be printed directly to the surface or on a wraparound label, shrink sleeve applied to the container, or by other means.
Different container types and label applications have different guideline requirements; so not only is it important to get the correct template when designing the artwork for your beverage, but you must also ensure your labels follow the guidelines associated with printing artwork on the specific container and label application you’ve selected.
Specific label guidelines address anything from how many colors can be used to how the barcode must appear, what file format the artwork should be delivered in, and so forth. The company that is going to print the artwork on the container generally supplies these guideline requirements—and remember, there will be cost implications associated with labeling your product.
Plastic or glass bottles will require an additional expense for creating and printing your product labels. If you plan to use cans, then your supplier will need to create a printing plate with your design, so add a few extra thousand dollars in up-front costs to your packaging budget.
4. Don’t Forget About Transportation Implications
Beverages are all perishable to some extent, so climate extremes, humidity, light, pests, and other environmental factors must be accounted for in your packaging—after all, packaging is the first line of defense for your product. Picking the right packaging involves being mindful to how you plan to transport and store your product.
When selecting your freight carrier, you’ll need to consider proximity as well as their shipping capabilities:
- Does your finished product have to be refrigerated?
- Can they be shipped on a bumpy rail car?
- Are there concerns with pressure?
- Does it make sense to produce in a certain location if you have to move your product so far?
If you are shipping a wine for example, you don’t want to let it go over a certain temperature—but things can get really hot on trucks. You’ve got the friction from the truck moving that generates heat, as well as the outside elements to worry about, and it’s typically not going to be an air-conditioned space. If it gets too hot, you risk corks popping and product spilling.
You run into the same problem if it’s too cold. Let’s say you’re shipping your wine from northern Minnesota. Instead of getting really hot, it going to be freezing. That’s why it might be best to ship on refrigerated trucks which will keep your product at a stable temperature, no matter what the outdoor conditions may be—but again, that is going to have a higher cost.
5. Choose The Right Warehousing Solution
As with transportation, there are several considerations to be aware of when picking a warehousing or storage facility:
- Are they temperature controlled?
- Are they moisture controlled?
- Do they stack product?
- How often do they inspect the facility for pests and mold?
- Do they inspect your product on a regular basis?
If you’re not careful, the conditions in which you store your product can impact the quality of your beverage and cost you in the long run. For example, placing product in a hot warehouse may speed up the aging of your beverage and significantly affect its shelf life; or an overly humid warehouse may corrode your beverage’s packaging. Overall, letting a product sit without inspection might allow any number of small problems turn into big ones.
6. Work With The Right Partner!
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when looking into beverage packaging, as well as related concerns like transportation and warehousing. By choosing to work with beverage experts like Flavorman, you’ll not only expedite the process of finding solutions for your business, but also be saving yourself a headache later by ultimately reduce your risks.
Flavorman can set you and your product up for success. With nearly 30 years in the business, Flavorman has created almost every kind of drink imaginable—and we’re confident that we can perfect your dream beverage, too.
“Other development companies or flavor houses will give you a formula and flavor and send you on your way,” says Kristen Wemer, Flavorman’s Director Beverage Architect. “They don’t provide any technical or regulatory support. Flavorman is different. Even after your formulation has been finalized, we continue to be an extension of your team. That’s what makes us so unique and that’s what makes our clients—and their beverages—so successful.”
When you’re ready talk about your beverage idea, give us a call at (502) 273-5214 or get started with this web form.