Metal beverage cans are a popular mainstay of soft drinks and mineral water packaging, but efforts to improve their ergonomics and sustainability are always evolving. Beverage Packaging Innovation speaks to Matt Twiss, marketing and business development director at Crown Bevcan Europe and Middle East, about how this staple can be optimised for an increasingly competitive and environmentally conscious industry.
What are the aesthetic priorities of marketing soft drinks and mineral water?
Matt Twiss: In an era of globalisation where consumer demand for customised products is on the rise, products need to stand out not only on retail shelves but everywhere they are seen and interacted with, as a means for brands to secure consumer loyalty. Metal packaging therefore continues to play a key role in successfully marketing these beverages. Features like novelty finishes, high-quality printing options and technologies, and striking shapes and sizes can enhance the design of a package and help a product stand out in the retail environment.
What is Crown Bevcan's company policy on sustainability and how do you ensure conformity throughout the supply chain?
Crown is committed to working with suppliers and brand-owners to reduce our environmental impact while increasing productivity and safety. Metal packaging is infinitely recyclable without loss of performance or integrity, and this has positive implications for the carbon footprint of the can manufacturing process: a can recycled today may come back as another beverage can in as little as 60 days. Recycling used aluminum saves up to 95% of energy compared with primary production, and an equivalent level of greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, Crown is a key supporter of Metal Recycles Forever, an industry initiative spearheaded by Metal Packaging Europe to raise the profile of the sustainability and recyclability of beverage cans and metal packaging as a whole - not just to brand-owners, but to consumers as well.
How does Crown stand out from competitors?
As the first can-maker to invest in a one-stop-shop design and graphic facility for customers across the EMEA region, Crown's studio includes cutting-edge pre-press and print equipment. Advances in printing technology and surface finishes offer a spectacular new level of shelf appeal. For example, Crown uses new high-resolution printing techniques that are specifically tailored for beverage cans.
Our pre-press and print technology is amongst the most advanced in the can-making industry: using digital file transfer, digital plate-making processes, the latest reprographic software and colour-separation techniques, we are able to reduce lead times and improve print quality. Using Crown Accents variable printing technology, up to 24 different designs - such as words or images - can be printed in a single manufacturing run. This process creates a range of cans for brands seeking to encourage customers to view their products as a collectible set or personalise cans with their own name or messaging.
Can you briefly describe the process of initiating a design and manufacturing the final product through to continuing to support brand-owners after the can is produced?
Equipped with the latest technologies, including two proofing machines and 3D software, our European design studio offers bespoke design choice for customers and significantly simplifies the package design processes.
Our team works with customers in this studio to develop and view design proofs and test concepts before starting full-scale production. This means customers can arrive at our studio with digital artwork concepts and leave the same day with a physical representation of their designs on a can - a crucial step in certifying that their creative briefs have been achieved.
Our customer technical service (CTS) team then supports customers in implementing new or existing can format systems onto their lines as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Crown offers a 360° review of the customer's operation, from security analysis to package integrity.
How does Crown maintain a consistent business strategy across so many markets?
Crown is one of the largest metal packaging companies in the world. Along with promoting the recycling and recyclability of metal packaging, we work to achieve a truly circular packaging economy across all of the sectors. We've pledged commitment to quality by using an integrated global approach for the effectiveness of all of Crown's operations, processes and suppliers. We have 149 manufacturing facilities in 40 countries, giving us a uniquely rich understanding of how to appeal to local brand-owners.
Why does metal continue to be the optimum container for soft drinks?
Metal is an ideal packaging material for beverage products as it protects the freshness of the product better than any other material, thanks to the container's hermetic seal, which acts as a barrier against air and oxygen. Cans are airtight, featuring seamed ends that prevent air ingress until the consumer pops the ring pull. In addition to the seal, the opacity of a metal container stops light coming into contact with the liquid inside and protects the flavour throughout the product's shelf life.
How does Crown take market research and customer feedback into account to influence the ergonomics of its cans or its style of branding?
The key to success lies in differentiating your products in a crowded global market. With this in mind, we invest significantly in research and development, to understand the requirements of consumers in our clients' different markets and to create new can formats and technologies able to support these needs. This insight is used by the design team when developing new packaging concepts.
Crown's CTS team also works closely with customers to provide support during the implementation of new packaging formats on their filling lines. The feedback this gives us helps us to create packaging that is not just distinctive, but also practical and efficient for brand-owners.
What new conceptual and design innovations is Crown developing?
In a competitive and globalised beverages market, brands require packaging that not only lends their products a competitive edge in a practical sense, but also helps them stand out to consumers - whether it is making a product aesthetically pleasing, physically or interactively engaging, or enhanced to improve consumption metrics. To further support brand-owners in captivating consumers, Crown introduced two exciting new products at BrauBeviale this year: Cottle, our latest development that combines optimum material utilisation with the process efficiency and system economics of cans; and CrownSmart, an interactive technology that allows brand-owners to instantly access consumer behaviour via a unique data matrix code situated beneath the tab of a beverage can.