To hear industry gossips tell it, neighborhood sports bars are being bumped aside. The culprits: speakeasies and lounges mirroring the "Mad Men" days serving classy classic cocktails.
That's not all. Top bartenders and mixologists also are in high demand everywhere, landing top dollar for their creative concoctions with higher-end spirits. Surveys show that more people are choosing wine and spirits as their liquor of choice and that's driving a surge in premium brands worldwide.
This expanding demand for higher-end spirits has sparked a highly competitive global market for spirit makers as brands compete on quality and consumer preference. And how to stand out on shelves, both in stores and behind the bar? Premium packaging is proving the differentiator.
Consumers are demonstrating a preference for premium glass packaging because it conveys a high-end look and feel, making it an ideal choice for premium brands. Increasingly, brand owners are collaborating with packaging manufacturers in the early stages of product development as part of their marketing strategies.
Companies such as Owens-Illinois (O-I), the world's leading glass packaging supplier, collaborate with their customers to develop innovative designs that embody brands and connect with consumers. "By being involved in early product development versus the procurement and bottling stages, we have helped premium spirits companies create a more impactful look and feel for their products," said Stephanie Johnston, director of global market development for specialty products at O-I. "We develop compelling packaging, whether bold and audacious or classic and trendy, that is a natural testament to the quality and character of the spirit and customer's identity of the brand." Spirits-makers such as Yaguara and BYE JOE USA are among those seeking O-I's assistance.
Yaguara: Crafting a global future for a national liquor
Cachaça, Brazil's national spirit, is a high-proof, cane-based liquor. Cachaça-maker Yaguara sought a striking glass bottle that would embody Brazil's culture, heart and soul, and reframe how Brazilians view a premium cachaça. They also wanted to convey that their blended cachaça qualifies as perfect base spirit for a range of drinks, an important distinction for mixologists. World-renowned stained glass artist Brian Clarke, the O-I team and Yaguara collaborated on a bottle from O-I's Covet™ line, adding a wave-like design of blue and clear glass that slightly changes hues with light. The stunning bottle catches shoppers' attention and encourages bartenders to display it prominently.
Rogerio Igarashi Vaz, a mixologist for Bar Tram in Tokyo, says the waves on the Yaguara bottle "remind me of the sidewalks of Rio de Janeiro in the 70s." He recommends Yaguara as a twist in classic cocktails such as Negroni, Manhattan and Martinez as well as in modern cocktails.
BYEJOE USA: Exporting "white lightning"
Then there's baijiu, one of China's best kept secrets even though the "white lightning," as it's called, has been distilled there for more than 5,000 years. As for popularity, it grossed $92.4 billion in 2012, mostly in China, according to industry research.
BYE JOE USA, a baijiu distiller, believed its byejoe could join the brown- and clear-bottled mainstays of the premium spirits category in new regions such as Brazil and the U.S., where adventurous consumers are seeking new and different spirit tastes. But, it faced heightened competition and a need to differentiate its product on shelves. BYE JOE USA secured a unique bottle showcasing the clear liquor while creating a distinct feel for the byejoe brand. Its aim: to attract first-time buyers in other markets. That packaging won byejoe a rare double gold at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC).
Focusing on Packaging Doesn't Have to Delay Speed to Market
For companies that believe they don't have the resources or time to devote to high-end packaging, or fear that such a focus will lengthen time to market, glass packagers such as O-I are launching entire lines of customizable products once reserved for only the finest premium brands. The bottles are scalable in size and can be customized with embossing, coating, labels and top finishes (bar top, screw top and decanter-style) for a unique look.
Consumer diversification and global demand will continue to shape how marketers create unique premium product experiences for consumers through design and packaging. The package is as important as the spirit inside.