10 Best Beverage Packaging Stories of 2020

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2020 was a banner year for must-read breakthroughs in beverage packaging from paper and biodegradable bottles to smart cups, “coronavirus” beer, and more.

Most will agree that it will feel good to bid 2020 good-bye at midnight on December 31, yet there’s much to toast, too, in a period when all victories no matter how minor should be celebrated.

For example, it’s been a banner year for beverage packaging features. Not only is the category’s glass more than half full based on Packaging Digest website metric analyses, it’s overflowing: a number of beverage packaging features were found throughout the list of the top-read articles of the year that we’ve distilled to a tidy Top 10.

These high-interest developments captured a variety of submarkets and formats, from printed ingredients to biodegradable bottles to revolutionary bottle inspection — inspired by a visit to the dentist, no less — as well as accelerating interest in paper bottles, among other beverage breakthroughs for beer, wine, spirits, and other drinks.

Enough of the introductory chatter, let’s get to the slide gallery presentation in typical reverse order with #10, a radical packaging twist for wellness shots.


1.  Bob Dylan whiskey

Bob Dylan, one of the world's most influential and groundbreaking artists, has an entrepreneurial side as well. He's been involved for the past several years in Heaven's Door Spirits, a collaboration with Spirits Investment Partnership that’s his first and only consumer brand partnership in a 50-year run as a worldwide cultural icon.The brand has just released the second in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. This rare offering that’s a “testament to the art and craft of whiskey making” is also a testament to beautifully crafted packaging design.

To say it struck a chord with readers is an understatement. In a matter of days, the article quickly skyrocketed to the top of the charts as one of Packaging Digest’s most popular posts of the year. It appears Dylan has another hit, this time among packaging design aficionados.

2. Best of stream

Packaging Digest unveiled a new kind of content in late August that quickly resonated with readers. Drawn from Twitter and LinkedIn posts, the regularly updated webpage offers visually driven, newsy briefs that feature alluring imagery and short, informative videos.

Examples of the most recent content added: edible packaging from seaweed, Pringles' chipper new look, PepsiCoEU's rPET commitment, Advent Calendar beer, new MAP tech, a translucent paper bag, and an Anheuser-Busch beer refill pilot.


3. 6 dominating trends

Standing out in the highly competitive — and increasingly saturated — food and beverage landscape is tougher than ever. This cut-throat competition has prompted F&B brands to experiment with many innovative approaches to packaging design. The six hottest trends designers expected to dominate food and beverage packaging in 2020 were...Metamorphoses; Maximalism and rich, heavily detailed packaging; Retro-futurism; Ecologically aware packaging; Transparent packaging; and Neatly structured layouts. 


4. Corona-virus beer

Woe to any infortunate brand that had the product name associated with the coronavirus. Alas, Modelo’s Corona beer became a lightning rod for pandemic-induced frustration, collective angst, and unwanted humor.

For example, this editor saw a word marquee fronting a popular ethnic restaurant in the area with the following admonition: “Open to carryout and delivery. Corona sucks, drink German bier.”

Because such sentiment echoed loudly on social media, we chronicled how the story played out on Twitter that traces the diverse viewpoints expressed since March. If there's no such thing as bad publicity, Corona may be a case study example. 



5. Absolut perfection

The second of two paper bottle features that makes the cut centers on the pioneering efforts of Niclas Appelquist, director of future packaging for The Absolut Co. (TAC).

The company rolled out 2,000 paper bottle prototypes the week of September 14, calling it a milestone and noting that it’s the first paper bottle for the spirits industry that’s moved from the conceptual into a real-world prototype. The products testing, Absolut Vodka (40% alcohol) and Absolut Mixt (4% alcohol), were scheduled to be available to consumers in November.

And that’s just the start of the big plans the spirits brand for the upstart format: TAC aims to create real, long-lasting behavioral change with the packaging, not just in the spirits industry, but in other markets, too.


6. Wine innovation

Growing at a CAGR of 2.65% over the forecast period of 2020-2025 to reach $25.8 billion by 2025, the global wine packaging market is experiencing only modest expansion.

However, what it lacks in market growth it makes up for through ongoing innovation across a spectrum of packaging and options. The eight-slide gallery starts in a small way with a novel, but “cute” 250-mL aluminum bottle and ends with a truly space-age wine. In between you’ll find high-tech near-field communication-enabled labels, universal augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain security.


7. DIY scanning

A visit to the dentist by an employee of spirits brand owner The Sazerac Company resulted in a major, positive impact on a brand’s quality assurance processes.

The fortuitous eureka moment and subsequent research within the field of metrology inspection led the company to adapt computerized tomography (CT) X-ray technology to address its packaging engineering needs.

In fact, Sazerac, which offers a portfolio of more than 450 brands, calls it “a revolutionary method to assess and measure packaging, components, and assemblies.”

How revolutionary? The time to appropriately identify an opportunity or issue for a package or packaging part has been reduced from weeks or longer is now done in minutes. The brand claims the technology is a powerful tool with measurement and vision capabilities far beyond the industry’s current state — and makes it available to others.



8. Smart Cups

What’s so smart about Smart Cups?

The novel technology was created to be sustainably optimized to enable the launch of the world’s first beverages that ship sans water.

What makes that possible is that the ingredients are printed onto the interior surface of plastic cups that consumers hydrate simply by adding water. At the heart of the printability is a patented food-safe polymer that protects the ingredients within that activates and dissolves in contact with a liquid, presumably water. Depending on the formula, the ingredients dissolve in 45 to 90 seconds. The products are available in four flavors relaunched in October 2019 and sold through the company and Amazon websites