Through New Year's, we'll be counting down the best work of the year in TV/Film/Branded Content, Print/Outdoor/Design and Interactive/Integrated (IX) as our picks of the day.
Our No. 1 pick for best of Print/Design in 2016 is this environmentally-conscious invention from agency We Believers and craft beer brand Saltwater Brewery. They re-thought the plastic rings that hold together six-packs of beer and end up strangling or harming wildlife when discarded in the ocean by making them safe to eat. While Saltwater adopted the rings, We Believers is now scaling up the idea to make it easier for big brands to take on. Read more about it in the Creativity 50 profile of We Believers' Co-Founder/CCO Gustavo Lauria.
Half of the 6.3 billion gallons of beer drunk by Americans every year is sold in cans, often packaged in six-packs held together by plastic rings. That plastic is then discarded and ends up in the ocean, where wildlife can be strangled by the rings or, more commonly, eat the plastic and then starve to death as their digestive systems are clogged.
What if those six-pack rings were edible? Working with Saltwater Brewery, a Florida craft beer brand targeting surfers, fishermen and ocean lovers, New York-based small agency We Believers developed edible six-pack rings, made from wheat and barley. They are safe for wildlife to eat, and sturdy enough to support the weight and handling of the cans.
"It shows that through innovation the little guys can point the finger at governments and big business to motivate change that impacts our world and the one we will leave for our children," said Gustavo Lauria, We Believer's founder and CCO.
Mr. Lauria said five 3D printer-generated molds were used to manufacture the first batch of 500 edible and biodegradable six-pack rings for Saltwater Brewery's main brand IPA. In April the new packaging was introduced at local events and venues, including the Saltwater Brewery Beer Garden and nearby points of purchase. Consumers were able to see that the new design was as strong as the environmentally harmful plastic rings, and some people couldn't resist taking a bite out of the edible rings.
Working with engineers at a small startup in Mexico, the idea is to produce 400,000 edible six-pack rings per month, enough for the current monthly production of Saltwater Brewery. That first mass-produced batch will cost between 10 and 15 cents per unit, for craft beer that costs more than $10 for a six-pack, Mr. Lauria said.
"If most craft breweries and big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and be very competitive compared with the current plastic solution, while saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives," he said.
This sounds like an idea other brewers and soda giants should consider making part of their packaging as well.