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The Rise of Can Culture

I was in the East Village the other day and stopped into a favorite shop of mine called ‘Good Beer’. Gazing around the shop my eyes were immediately drawn to the canned beer section, which had doubled in size since the last time I was in the store only a year before.

It is not surprising to see canned beer getting so much shelf space as there has been major surge of ‘can culture’ within the vibrant and innovative craft beer category. Cans not only have become more acceptable with beer aficionados, but also many brewers see a clear advantage over bottling as cans cool liquids faster, are more portable and also protect the beer from harmful light damage. Aluminum is lighter than glass, which makes for a smaller carbon footprint for transportation. It is also more likely to be recycled, and offers larger energy savings when it comes to producing the next round of cans. But aside from the great utility of cans, there is another big benefit for brewers - cans provide a larger design canvas for wraparound decoration.

What is truly amazing to see is the transformation of product graphics as they have evolved from more ‘traditional heritage’ designs to more expressive contemporary graphics that reflect the brewer’s own unique perspective on craft beer. With creative naming like, Jester’s Revenge’, ‘Funky Bhuda and my personal favorite, ‘Snake Handler’ – craft branding now permits design to take on a bold new role that focuses more on iconic identity and attitude than on heritage or ingredients. This engaging design helps consumers identify with the brands and flavors they like most and also encourages consumer experimentation and exploration within the category.

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From a branding perspective we are witnessing the response from mega brands like Budweiser, Heineken and Coors, as they mimic the craft movement with their take on micro beers and can designs. What will be interesting to see is how these mega-brand versions fair in the marketplace and if they will potentially serve as a gateway for more consumers to delve into the world of independent craft beer.

–John

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