Making canned wine 3: can design

As the co-founder of a young start-up I don’t spend much time reading How to Spend It in the Weekend FT. I am all too aware of the irony in flicking through its pages after moving back in with my parents. Dreams of holidaying in vineyards will have to wait. But starting a retail business in the middle of a global pandemic can be slow going, so I had a bit more time to peruse the weekend papers during lockdown.

While flicking through the pages, Alice Lascelles has been writing excellent articles over the past few months that draw my eyes away from the yacht adverts. In a piece written right at the beginning of lockdown, Lascelles discusses the rise of the humble can and can design; a topic close to my heart. It also must be a topic close to her heart, with her most recent article titled ‘Krug in a Can’. The previous article discusses the design of cans and the quality of their contents and includes a quote from Jen Ferguson of Hops Burns & Black: ‘[The can designs] feels like record-sleeve art. Designers are pushing the boundaries of what can go on a beer label.’

This nails the trend in can design. A trip to your favourite craft beer will confirm that. You will be faced with a wall of colourful, characterful, well-designed cans that reflect the personality of the drink and, I suspect, the producer.

A craft beer shop provides a not dissimilar experience to the one our parents would have had walking into a record shop. Both can labels and record sleeves attempt to embody a product that you can’t see or experience until you take it home. Sure, you may have tasted it before, or taken the advice of a friend, so you have a vague idea. But usually the decision for mouths or ears is made by your eyes. With this in mind, the question for producers is: what does the outside say about the inside? For us, in wine, this is particularly relevant.

Often, if the liquid is visible, consumers are drawn to the palest Rosé they see – how do we convey that lightness of colour and taste with the design on a wine can? How, too, when there are so few around, do you make a design that looks like a wine can, rather than the latest summer cocktail? As the number of cans in the world and competition increases, good answers to these questions are key.

The result is the boundaries of design for drinks are being widened. Cans are changing from pure brand recognition to a reflection of the calibre and characteristics of individual drinks and brands. Northern Monk and Beavertown are great examples of this. Similarly, Brewdog’s quick work with producing the Barnard Castle Eye Test shows that designs have taken on a new importance. Each can has a personality on the exterior that is reflective of the brand identity, not just seeking recognition. The designs distance craft beers from the mass-produced lagers of this world, enticing customers to make a different decision.

There are loads of brilliant designs out there in the craft beer world and, increasingly, in the cocktail market. It’s my hope that canned wine designs will soon follow in quantity and quality.

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