RR Donnelley examines changing craft beer landscape.

Pressure sensitive labels have allowed the growing craft beer market to really spread its wings in recent years. Brands have the opportunity to utilize a greater chunk of real estate to spread their message, whether it be on a can, bottle or growler. The labels must also be functional, withstanding the demands of moisture in a cooler or ice bucket.

Craft beer companies have capitalized on a host of trends that allow them to compete with the biggest players in the market. "Microbrews connect with their audiences through packaging," says Alan Etheridge, director of customer engagement at RR Donnelley. "Traditionally, the larger brewers connected with consumers through different forms of advertising and marketing. Everything at the microbrew level is around the packaging and connecting with the consumer at the package level."

The craft beer label will often target varying generations, regions, states and even towns to attract consumers. Creative art, embellishments and target messages are frequently used to deliver those messages. And quite often, a consumer will buy a craft beer solely because of the label.

"Now we're seeing the microbreweries chase very specific target audiences with their decorations, and that changes how consumers select their decorative packaging and which brands they go to to buy it," says Etheridge.

According to Bruce Hanson, president, Labels & Forms, RR Donnelley, digital has emerged as a strong component at the microbrew level. He adds, though, that digital has proliferated to bigger brands, as they see greater demand for increased SKUs.

"We are seeing a digital trend that's really high in the microbrew space, both in shrink sleeves and pressure sensitive," says Hanson. "A lot of the embellishment can be done on the digital level, and it doesn't require a lot of extensive setups and complex technologies. It can be inline or off-line. There are even digital assets that have embellishment models inside the asset, that can be embellished inline in the digital process instead of off-line through a finishing or converting unit. I think that's the next biggest trend for manufacturers, deciding where they invest in embellishment opportunities and how they're going to drive competition."

With a small number of SKUs, microbreweries expect fast...

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