Design flexibility makes glass the pack of choice to tell brand stories

The global drive to reduce single-use plastic is having a pronounced impact on packaging discussions and giving glass the opportunity to reinforce its sustainability benefits.

Glass packaging can be reused or recycled to create new bottles and jars for ever, and recycled glass is in constant demand.  But sustainability is not the only reason why brands are seeking solutions in glass.

Glass provides an emotional reach into consumers’ deepest needs. Its unique values perfectly encapsulate the mood of the moment: purity, quality, premiumness, health and, of course, sustainability.

Add in the design versatility, which enables brands to project their story directly into the consumers’ living space, and the material creates a tight bond between the consumption experience and the brand promise.

Design cues in glass

This design flexibility, in terms of shape, colour and decoration, enables glass to embody vital design cues. Within the spirits segment, for example, various codes are highlighted by product type and geography. A Czech or Polish vodka typically contains distinct cues on the bottle concerning its source, using a heavy shape and chunky embossing.

Similarly, the neck shape of many Scotch whiskies and the use of embossing highlights authenticity, heritage and the Scottishness of the brands. Even a brand creating a modern image, such as Teacher’s, uses stylised thistles on the bottle.

The shorthand communicated is that when the provenance and authentic source of the spirit is most important for the brand, then the more distinctive the bottle will be.

Innovations in wine 

Wine also has specific design signals. The Bordeaux, Burgundy or champagne shapes are all different, but they reflect a tradition; they immediately identify a type of wine, even if the product is from a different country. By contrast, rosé wines, like gins, tend to display much more innovation with their packaging shapes; marketers have the freedom to express their ideas unconstrained by tradition. That is why vintners including Producteurs de Piedmont have adopted technical design innovations such as embossed bases to create a point of difference, while others have adopted the helix “twist to open” innovation, which offers the experience of a cork stopper with the convenience of a screw cap.

Agility caters for latest trends

Packaging does not exist in a design vacuum; it is influenced by trends in the worlds of fashion, cars and other premium product niches. In-vogue styling includes gradient colours, now available in glass through modern coating processes, and a scaling down of in-your-face branding. Pepsi is just one of the world’s best-known brands to have taken a simpler, almost minimalist approach to packaging design.

Segments where craft is growing most rapidly place far more importance on the variety of packaging design to create a point of difference. These craft brands have more need than most to communicate an authentic story. As a result, identifying what are the key cues that embody brand identity in the packaging are critical before starting any design project; a fact emphasised by the variety of containers illustrated in O-I’s first global design book, which draws together more than 100 glass designs from around the world.

Consumer preferred

An InSites study for the European Glass Industry Federation (FEVE) in 2016 confirms consumers love glass and it is easy to see why. Only glass evokes wonder: the pleasure as you pick up an ice-cold beer, the craving as you open a jar of your favourite spread, the anticipation as you watch the sommelier uncork your champagne.

Whether brands seek sustainability, purity, authenticity or the best image, glass provides the answer

That message is increasingly resonating with brand owners. Whether brands seek sustainability, purity, authenticity or the best image, glass provides the answer.

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