A perspective: Crafting a Generation

Glass is absolutely the perfect packaging for Millennials. This liberal, disloyal, ‘selfie’ generation are conscious of the world’s problems, as well as being pragmatic idealists who seek clarity in their endeavours. Along with coveting clarity, they want to resist pressure from their antagonists and continuously recycle and reuse their core values to benefit the future. And herein lies a seminal finding: the properties of glass and Millennials are rather alike.

The question therefore is how we can engage with this rapidly growing and increasingly influential generation, responsible for having the most disposable income of any preceding cohort.

Here at Croxsons we can already see trends emerging within our core areas of business.

Beer Industry

The trend of beer bottles reducing from 500ml to 330ml in the retail sector has taken effect in recent times, and this reflects the changing landscape in the Hospitality industry (including pubs and bars). Brewers tend to offer both volumes currently, although notable exceptions include Thornbridge Brewery, who now only offer 330ml bottles of beer. The 330ml bottle, in both retail and bar environments, enables the sampling a variety of beers instead of feeling invested in one. Lower volume, less commitment. For the disloyal Millennial, this evolution is ideal.

A more recent trend which we are witnessing here and now is the evolution of 750ml bottles of beer, oft found in restaurants as an alternative to wine. Camden Town Brewery have a selection of 750ml bottles, and this volume satisfies the Millenial’s need to share, both on social media and in person.

But surely the increased choice means less chance of being noticed and attracting the impatient generation who, via their significant social media and internet interactions, get festooned with over 5000 marketing messages a day.

The craft beer movement, which continues to see year on year growth, is a rejection of mass produced product that is almost forced upon consumers through multibuy deals. It relies on transparency, high quality and true provenance. Millennials are willing to spend on high quality and higher priced items as they see it as experiential rather than simply transactional.

The attitude even within individual craft breweries is Millennial. They embrace social media and instead of committing to endless scheduled campaigns of shameless self promotion, they engage with the customer and, more importantly, other breweries. As far afield as in New Zealand, said breweries actively promote each others products to create a trusted community, and appear authentic. This refreshing approach also engages the disloyal Millennial and subversively creates loyalty, as ‘real’ recommendations are more trusted than advertising. Insta-communities and the Twitterati complete the cycle by returning to trusted breweries and listening to them again. Take a look at the Yeasty Boys (@yeastieboys) Twitter feed and experience this step change.

Still, the craft beers must compete with the mainstream and aside from product quality, they still need to stand out amongst their peers. Edgy label designs and branding, including brewers such as Brewdog, continue to push boundaries visually.

An additional option is decorating the bottle itself, rather than use of labels, creating textures and encouraging consumers to touch and feel the bottles; another experience capable of attracting the Millenial. We have also supplied numerous references of this innovation, primarily in the gin world, with Silent Pool Distillers and House of Elrick artisan brands.

Gin, Whisky and Other Spirits

The craft movement has been another growth area in the gin sector, helping gin sales top £1bn for the first time at the end of 2015. Whereas beer has always been a multi-generational drink, gin has previously been the reserve of the over 40s. Now, 42% of 18-34 year olds have tried gin and that figure continues to rise.

The Millennial need for quality and authenticity, which aligns with their desire for transparency and provenance, again rears its head in alcohol choices. The experiential generation are happy to try new things, but always want something unique. Gin has therefore had to develop and the traditional recipe (juniper, coriander and citrus) has been amended at various distilleries to include many different flavourings (including cassia bark, pine, angelica, basil), and the aforementioned Croxsons’ client Silent Pool uses 24 different flavourings. Although the craft movement has been promoting these differences, it was actually Hendricks gin who instigated the perception change. In a particular campaign they simply changed the garnish on the drink from ice and lemon, to cucumber. This has been cited by Stuart Ekins of London bar Bedford & Strand as being the catalyst for further exploration with ingredients by the craft distilleries.

The new-wave gin movement has led the way in changing the volume of bottles too. Much like their counterparts in the beer industry, a rise in the number of smaller volume bottles in the marketplace has taken effect. The same Millennial-friendly principles of being able to try many different products instead of having to purchase a £30-£35 large bottle of premium gin helps distilleries unearth new consumers. Diversifying their customer base and opening up additional sales avenues aren’t the only benefits, fractional sizes are also practical for those travelling for example.

Whisky, another premium spirit, has followed similar trends to the above, particularly  in terms of fractional sizing. Here again a craft movement has started to take hold this year in London, where apparently it was originally crafted (barley based) in 1060, some 400 years before the first Scottish whisky. Yet another nod to the Millennial consumer seeking new experiences.

Aside from the commonly requested ‘JD and Coke’, whisky in general has been the reserve of Generation X and Baby Boomers. It is well established in retail and bar environments, and from a design perspective most of the products are made from clear glass with a label outlining the brand and other information. This stagnant approach has, on occasion, been deviated from by the use of PET shrink sleeves, although mainly on a promotional basis. In 1998, an American brand from Connecticut, Canadian Club, used a full body shrink sleeve with a golf ball pattern to commemorate Father’s Day. 19 years later, White and Mackay’s Jura brand has entered the UK retail sector with two special edition designs, incidentally also for Father’s Day, featuring a full body shrink sleeve. Jura Origin and Jura Superstition possess bright and vibrant designs alien to the whisky shelves.

Understanding the lack of time Millennials feel they have to perform tasks (5 seconds compared to 5 minutes), this clever ploy to attract a younger buyer wins on two levels. One, it is vibrant enough to stand out on shelf compared to traditional brands as the Millennial walks past. Two, the sleeves offer the impression of being ripe for a special occasion with its unique design work. The Millennial would first be grabbed by its difference, and second would see that it’s a special edition and almost gift wrapped already.

Shrink sleeves are a tool utilised by others in the spirit industry too. Absolut are a huge brand who have embraced this technology as well as screen printing direct to bottle, and more traditional applied ceramic labelling. Each year it is almost an expectation that Absolut will release a special edition – a collectible range of bottles for its consumers. In 2012 they used direct-to-bottle print techniques to create 4 million individual, uniquely designed bottles to send to market. Smirnoff has been part of the shrink sleeve trend, notably utilising digital print technology to release 500 special edition bottles, with each one showing a unique LGBT couple as part of their ‘Love Wins’ campaign. With digital print’s infinite possibilities in variable data, you can make every single sleeve or label in a short or long run production unique at a competitive cost. The possibilities for increased engagement by embedding social media feeds, for example on packaging, is therefore huge and is something that does need more brand buy-in. Imagine your social media followers ensuring you’re in a permanent state of internet virality, as opposed to expensive, lengthily thought out campaigns.

The ‘Love Wins’ range demonstrates that you don’t need to change the core product to add value, simply an element of packaging. This is a concept contradictory to the craft drink breweries and distillers – but is more suitable for larger brands looking to engage with Millennials.

With our design skills and access to all the above technologies, we have been in the privileged position to experience the brand journey from concept to delivery on many, many occasions. It never ceases to amaze the team here the stories and background to each brand we work with, and we can always offer the perfect solution for all.

Soft Drinks

There has been a visible rise in the teetotal generation who avoid alcohol but still, in true Millennial style, want to share social experiences with friends, regardless if all others in the group are drinking. 21% of adults in the UK don’t drink alcohol at all. The drinks industry has spotted this too and is a key growth market. It is something we can also verify from our sales figures and customer profiles.

On a daily basis, the Millennial generation’s quest for transparency has helped brands such as Dalston Cola, a challenger brand offering an authentic cola drink. The openness in ingredients and products being made using ‘craft’ techniques has struck a chord with Millennials and others in the same way as the craft breweries have. A high quality, premium offering which has a higher price point than the two conglomerates dominating cola has created its own niche in this otherwise duopolised space. You wouldn’t have imagined this occurring even 15 years ago, which really sheds light on the influence of the Millennial consumer, helping challenge the status quo and habits of previous generations.

Fever Tree Tonics have also followed this mould in their premium mixer drinks. Again, juxtaposed with the gin and spirit trends, these mixers sit nicely completing a high quality and cleaner option for Millennials and connoisseurs alike.

From a glass packaging perspective, we see the above drinks being served in and from glass bottles in a pub, bar or club scenario. What we can deduce here is something quite interesting about the Millennial – they want to conform and feel part of the overriding experience they are sharing. So far from being the militant non-conformists they are often portrayed as, they are rather tactful in their rebellion. Feeling they can make a difference quietly and covertly is perhaps another aspect to the generational character. Their social media activity is quite vehement and amplified, which could be argued is the area where they force change whilst participating in the physical world without controversy. Covert!

The teetotal trend, driven by Millennials, has some reason in fact. Generation X and Baby Boomers are responsible for the highest alcohol-related illness admissions into hospitals in the history of the NHS. This is partly responsible for investments being made by drinks giants such as Diageo and BritVic, via incubator programmes and more, to cater for the trend in adult-friendly soft drinks.

Conclusion: Glass = Millennial

Glass is incredibly strong, it offers transparency, trustworthiness, infinite recyclability and is made from natural raw materials. All these properties also represent the Millennial legion’s drivers and goals in their efforts to improve the world. From a physical perspective, glass meets a Millennial’s environmental remit in terms of sustainability and a recent FEVE study across Europe shows that 85% of Europeans believe glass represents a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. The report also found that younger people find glass packaging trendier and represents quality.

Traditionally, glass production has meant high minimum order volumes but there is a trend across the packaging sphere for lower order volumes as stocks are consolidated, space becomes more precious and companies prefer a just-in-time solution. This is something we help with, with low MOQs to support needs, when needed. Complete with collaborative design, a full complement of decorative finishing technologies, and closure options to help create that point of difference, we at Croxsons are in a perfect position to lift brands to where they want to be. And with the power of the Millennial becoming increasingly felt, our service is both proactive and responsive to ensure nobody misses out on being on trend.

Our overall outlook matches that of Millennials. We want to make a difference in the world, offering transparency, trustworthiness, responsibility, engagement and can happily confirm that we are all made from natural raw materials! With 50% of our workforce being of this generation, we can be certain of one thing: We know Millennials.