Message in a Bottle: Craft Spirits and Stock Bottles

Brandi Parker, Production Director at Spring Design Partners, explores a very intriguing concept: a handful of different spirits brands, who all happen to be craft distilleries, are releasing their products in the same or incredibly similar glass bottle. Coincidence? In our article, Brandi will answer this burning question.

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As part of being good designers and brand stewards, we at Spring Design Partners are always on the watch for new and notable trends across the design landscape. We begin to see patterns emerging while researching packaging blogs and publications or out enjoying a drink with some good friends.

Recently, we’ve noticed something very intriguing: a handful of different spirit brands, who all happen to be craft distilleries, releasing products in the same or incredibly similar glass bottles.

XXQ Extra God Jul

We believe this particular squat cylinder-type bottle, has emerged because it is reminiscent of old apothecary bottles that were practical for filling and labeling by hand. It is both premium and understated, which is a perfect pairing of attributes for distillers seeking credibility through their DIY attitude. The simple, elegant shape has a proud stature that signals a handcrafted, no-frills product, and reflects a counter-culture, or anti-mass-market style. When executed successfully a brand can look fantastic at shelf, strengthening point-of-sale communication.

It's difficult to determine whether all of these distilleries are procuring the same bottle from the same manufacturer, though they do all closely resemble the “Oslo” family of stock bottles from Saver Glass, or the “Kaleido” from O-I. Its smooth, clean lines, cylindrical profile, and high shoulder distinguish the shape.

South Bay Rum

For craft distillery brands, this bottle shape (we’ll call the squat cylinder from this point) is available in a range of sizes for a nominal fee. It is very possible that this trend arose from an economical starting point and, as a result of that accessibility, we’re seeing it everywhere.

Dillon's Small Batch Distillers

Stock Bottle or Custom Bottle?

This question does not have a straightforward answer. As a matter of fact, a little while back, we asked JC Forster of Saver Glass to answer this question for us.

Forster makes some great points: stock bottles are perfect for the new brand, or brands with a low budget to start. Stock bottles are also great in instances where the timeline to production is short—stock bottles might already be sitting in a warehouse, or in worst-case scenario, be ready to produce without the lead-time of tooling and molds.

On the flip side, when choosing a stock bottle, other aspects of the design must work harder to ensure your brand is differentiated from others using the same structure. Many craft distilleries are choosing to develop spirits of all kinds using a single stock structure. There are some really interesting examples of brands that are managing this successfully and others that fall short.

Bully Boy Distrillers

These examples show that when each label is treated as an equal, the impression is that the distillery may be a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.

Also, it could be hard for consumers to distinguish between the spirit types because the labels’ similarities.

Spirits of Texas

Spirit Of Texas is one example of a craft distillery that has done a really great job of establishing an iconic umbrella brand. Each product has a strong identity and communicates its individuality, craftsmanship and credibility. Spirit Of Texas demonstrates that although the bottle shape might not be entirely unique in the category, its use does not mean that you can’t put forth a unique package and brand identity.

There are an array of options available to customize your stock bottle: use of different labels with unique shapes, textures & finishes, different closures, corks, tax strip labels, and breakthrough graphics.

Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey

All this said, there are still reasons to consider a custom bottle:

  1. Creating an iconic equity: As we’ve demonstrated, the squat cylinder bottle can signal “craft,” while still being a practical solution for the brand. However, a ubiquitous structure across a full array of product varieties has the potential to lead to confusion. Brands like Coca-Cola, Absolut and Patron have created iconic equity in their bottle shapes. The bottles have become synonymous with the brands to the point where just the silhouette of the bottle makes the brand recognizable.
  2. Cost Efficiencies: With some research, one can find a variety of custom solutions across a range of prices. While creating a custom bottle can be costly compared to employing stock, as volumes grow, a custom bottle can become much more cost efficient. Given a custom bottle’s unique ability to elevate a brand, the one-time costs should be considered and investment rather than an expense.
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About Brandi Parker

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Brandi Parker joined Spring Design Partners as Production Director in the Fall of 2011, bringing with her over 12 years of production and design experience with global brand design consultancies.

Her talent and experience has ensured quality from concept through completion for multiple brands across a broad range of categories, including: Storck, Perrier, Nestle Waters, Carib Brewery, Mondelez, Kraft Foods, Walmart, KitchenAid, Sam’s Club, Pepsi, Disney, Pernod Ricard, Colgate-Palmolive, Alberto Culver, and ABInBev to name a few.

“I view production as an important phase in problem solving and an opportunity to find artistry in the solution.”

Brandi is a proud southerner who ironically has no discernible southern accent. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BA in Visual Arts, emphasis in drawing and traditional printmaking.