Part 2 of a 3-part series on craft beer packaging.
Craft beer makers: are you trying to juggle the business realities of small production runs with the need for big inventories? The answer is not magic, but it might be up your sleeve.
If you’re a giant brewery, filling and selling millions of units, it’s not a problem. You’re sending out cans of your product by the trainload, and the people who make pre-printed cans are set up to fill that need. So if you want to order a batch of cans for your product, there’s almost always a minimum order size--say, a semitrailer load of about 150,000 cans—and you can easily meet that minimum.
But you’re not a giant. You are a craft brewer, serving your local area and your coterie of diehard customers and fans who either buy your brew locally or order it online. Your production runs are small in any event, and smaller still if you have, say, a limited run of a special holiday brand. What, then, do you do with all those cans labeled for one of your products? You pay to store and protect them from damage until you fill them.
Or you can do what Great River Brewery, a craft brewer in Davenport, Iowa, did. As detailed in Packaging Digest Magazine, brewery manager and co-owner Paul Krutzfeldt says Great River was the first craft brewer to sleeve-label its cans.
Labels for 5,000 cans arrive in a box about the size of one used to ship “a pair of cowboy boots”, Krutzfeldt told the magazine. Though there are still cans to store, they can be labeled as needed on an automatic label-wrapping line for whatever size of production run the brewer needs, allowing much more flexible use of inventory and storage space. That would allow you to quickly switch labels for a limited, small production run, or even to do contract filling and labeling for a customer with little interference with your own production needs.
We see shrink-wrap sleeve labels on everything from soda bottles to jars to tubs, but hardly ever on beer cans. In many ways, though, sleeve labeling can wrap up many of your inventory and production tangles.