Packing Your Spirits

Packing Your Spirits

Craft distilleries are often born from the dreams of one person, or maybe a couple of friends who have an idea for a better or unique brand of spirit. Passionate people will plan out everything from the tasting room to how they will handle every step of the distilling process.

These plans also include ideas about the type of bottle and label they would use. It’s all part of this image of what they will be doing. Of course, the final product will be different since no one person is an expert on everything. Understanding that someone who has built industrial level stills for over a decade has a practical level of expertise and why they are worth the extra expense is one thing. Understanding that you’ll need more than pretty graphics and a cool font when it comes to packaging is another.

How a spirit is packaged is almost as important as what goes in it.

The bottle, the label, the box, even the crate, tell customers and distributors a lot of the reasons why a brand of liquor is worth buying. Want to know how important the packaging factor is? Look at kid’s cereals. All those mascots are made to do one thing which is to look at kids. More specifically make eye contact. It turns out that creating the sense of eye contact increased brand trust and sales. It also works on adults too.

So, what will be your distillery’s equivalent of a stupid toucan or teetotaling leprechaun making the concept of rotting teeth and poor nutrition more appealing?

Understanding your target market is a start to figuring it out. After that, there are no easy; one size fits all answers. One bit of marketing lore I’ve been told was that packaging often has to do the impossible. It’s got to fit in/look like it belongs with all the competing products on the shelf while at the same time stand apart from them. Unless being completely different is what works.

A big part of packaging is letting customers know that you can meet their expectations. People who drink craft spirits want quality. There is also a growing segment who actively search for opportunities to buy local, buy a product that is "real," i.e., real craft spirits and not a big distillery's "craft label," and be part of something unique and special. The right packaging can show them all that and more.

Packaging to go beyond being eye-catching for some customers.

The best examples are millennials, which are a growing and hard to impress market. They want all the bells and whistles in a bottle or box that lets them know that the spirit is worth the money, but they also want it to fit their worldview.

The most prominent thing they look for is if the packaging is made from recycled and sustainable materials and a company which practices inclusiveness. They might be open to drinking the same liquor as their granddad, but they don't want the company that makes their granddad's liquor to share his worldview.

Once you get your packaging down, now its time to find a company that can get as much as you need to your distillery when you need it.

This is when it is nice to have a good network of other distillers to ask who they use. Your friends in the industry can tell you who does good work, and who to avoid. Calling the printers and companies that make the packaging can tell you some, but you always run the risk of partnering up with an outfit that promises more than they can deliver.

Do your research, especially if are considering outsourcing your packaging needs to a company outside of North America.