6 Consumer Trends Are Shaping Beverage Alcohol Packaging

November 2, 2020 | By The Fres-co Team

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It’s easy to see the imprint of consumer trends on B2C products like food, fashion, and furnishings. But those same macro issues impact B2B products, including packaging. A successful packaging strategy considers and responds to the consumer trends of the day, ensuring the company delivers products that are relevant to the buyer’s needs and interests.
These six trends are greatly shaping how beverage alcohol packaging is evolving and the key considerations beverage companies need to account for in developing a packaging strategy.

1. Convenience

Consumers don’t just want convenience; their lives demand it. Two-income households are increasingly the norm, making for hectic, fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyles. And in our post-COVID world consumers are more mobile than ever, using technology that makes it easy to work, learn, and stay connected from virtually anywhere. In this environment, products that are portable, lightweight, easy to store, and easy to carry are in high demand.

Convenience has always been a key consideration for beverage alcohol packaging. Today, it’s a must-have. In fact, the demand for convenience is one of the top reasons for the surge in flexible packaging, according to a Deloitte report. And it’s a key driver behind the success of ready-to-drink cocktails in flexible liquor pouches.

Alcohol pouches deliver all the convenience consumers expect from food and beverage packaging: They’re lightweight, take up little room in a cooler or refrigerator, are easy to transport, and are easily carried by a handle. The single-serving size of a liquor pouch also makes it highly portable—allowing people on the go to take it along to any type of gathering.

2. Sustainability

It’s no secret that consumers want to do business with companies they perceive as good environmental stewards. And they’re making that preference known, loud and clear, with their wallets. Consumers with a strong desire to protect the environment, reduce waste, and preserve natural resources are willing to pay a premium for products that align with those values.

The sustainability trend is forcing companies to demonstrate their commitment to the environment with clear, consistent actions. That means a green initiative must go far beyond a mission statement or slogan; it must extend throughout every process and every decision, including the choice of packaging.

Wine and spirits packaging with a low product-to-package ratio—like the newest bag-in-box options—sends a clear message that the company is committed to reducing waste.  Cocktails packaged in lightweight materials, like liquid pouch packaging, demonstrate a strong commitment to reducing transportation requirements and lowering the product’s carbon footprint. And when alcohol is packaged in durable, non-breakable liquor pouches, the chance for damage drops dramatically, further reducing waste.

3. Transparency

Gone are the days when a consumer trusted an organization’s claims without much thought. Today’s buyers expect full transparency from the companies they do business with. While transparency about ingredients tops the list for food and beverage companies, consumers expect far more—including transparency about the organization’s sourcing, operations, and overall business practices. Businesses that meet this expectation are perceived as trustworthy and honest, creating goodwill with customers.

Packaging can support the buyer’s expectation for transparency in many ways. At a minimum, the ingredients list should be featured prominently, photos and other images should provide a realistic depiction of the product, and the package can offer messaging or links to information about the company’s mission, values, and practices. But many beverage alcohol companies are going beyond those basics, taking the transparency idea from figurative to literal by adding see-through windows to their packaging. An alcohol pouch with a transparent window provides the consumer with a literal view into the product before buying—a great way to elicit the consumer’s trust and encourage trial.

4. The Homebody Economy

COVID-19 has accelerated the “homebody” trend that was already perking. As consumers spend more time at home—especially where there are restrictions on public venues like restaurants, bars, and sporting events—a large portion of the beverage alcohol sales volume has shifted to off premise. Even when those restrictions are eased or lifted, the shift back to on-premise consumption may not be dramatic or quick. A June 2020 survey by alcohol e-commerce platform Drizly found that 70 percent of consumers expect they will continue to drink less away from home.

While liquor stores and grocery stores are certainly enjoying a surge in alcohol sales, a good deal of the off-premise volume is sold via e-commerce or home delivery apps, as a Neilsen podcast on Navigating Beverage Alcohol Through the Next Normal shared. Bars and restaurants are responding to this shift by offering virtual tastings and Zoom sessions on cocktail-making.

With off-premise alcohol consumption outpacing on-premise consumption, at least in the short term, packaging will take more of a front-and-center role. There’s little time to capture a consumer’s attention at the point of purchase, so it’s vital to up the ante on shelf appeal by using packaging that creates a stand-out impression. A liquor pouch that’s printed on 100 percent of the surface is one way to do that—creating a virtual billboard with a bold, impactful presence. The right packaging also can support the new normal of social gathering, with alcohol pouches making a splash at virtual happy hours and bag-in-box wines carried along to socially distanced gatherings on patios and decks, in parks or driveways.

5. The Digital Explosion

Amazon Prime. DoorDash. Grubhub. There’s no shortage of ways to order just about anything for home delivery. While online shopping was already surging, in the post-pandemic world—with many consumers limiting on-premise shopping for health and safety reasons— e-commerce is expected to skyrocket. That holds true for most product categories, including wine and spirts.

A Neilsen podcast reported triple digit growth for online alcohol sales between March and June, with a surge of new online buyers in the 35-44 age range. The recent Drizly report confirms this, with 71 percent of the platform’s users expecting at least half their alcohol purchases will be made online in the next year. Consumers who are anxious about in-store shopping and restaurant visits are buying beverage alcohol online or via home delivery, more often or even exclusively.

When beverage alcohol is sold online, the choice of packaging comes with its own set of considerations. It needs to be e-commerce friendly, meaning it’s easy to pack, lightweight (to minimize shipping costs) and able to withstand transportation without damage. Flexible packaging clears all those hurdles, providing significant advantages over glass bottles or metal cans. Liquid pouch packaging is especially suited to e-commerce, making it a popular choice for beverage makers looking to expand their reach online.

6. Experiences Over “Things”

The demise of toy stores and department stores points to an overwhelming trend: Many consumers value experiences more than material objects. As people buy fewer things and instead spend more of their discretionary income on experiences, they likewise expect their food and beverage purchases to deliver an experience. It could be as simple as triggering an emotion, or as involved as sparking engagement with the brand.

As the first experience a consumer may have with the brand, beverage alcohol packaging can capitalize on this trend. The right packaging can evoke emotions through its texture, colors, imagery, and typography. If it’s portable, the package can be toted along to wherever the consumer goes, making the experience more convenient and pleasurable. Alcohol pouches and bag-in-box packaging both fit the bill, enabling consumers who are focused on experiences to bring along their favorite beverages.

As a leader in flexible packaging, Fres-co offers a full range of solutions that respond to these pervasive consumer trends and help beverage makers deliver the most relevant products. Options like our grab-and-go Barrel Pouch and Fres Flow™, the next generation bag-in-box, make it easy to provide convenience, support sustainability, demonstrate transparency, sell off premise, and offer the experiences today’s consumers are looking for.

Contact Fres-co to learn how you can stay current and relevant with flexible packaging!

The Fres-co Team

For more than 40 years, Fres-co System USA, Inc. has manufactured high-performance flexible packaging systems and invented dozens of innovative breakthroughs including degassing valves, modified atmosphere technologies, and reclosure systems.

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