Unique, custom bottle designs can impede profitability
Fresh, new ideas – and the creative people who come up with them – are the driving force behind Flavorman’s continued success. Whether it is a spicy flavored-water or blended scotch in an aluminum can, differentiation is a fundamental requirement for propelling a new product into consumers’ shopping carts. But what happens when your cornerstone concept becomes an impediment to your success?
Often, new beverage innovators are entirely convinced that the key to carving out a profitable niche on crowded shelves is through unique or novel packaging – think Frangelico as opposed to Jim Beam, or Arizona Iced Tea as opposed to Lipton Brisk. While there is an undeniable allure to the idea of a truly one-of-a-kind package on the shelf, the reality is that custom packaging is often a project-killer financially.
Large packaging manufacturers work on the same economies of scale as the rest of the world, and when they are able to produce millions and millions of the same rounded polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottle, the price per unit keeps getting lower. And lower. And lower. For custom packaging though, manufacturers face the expense of either designing the package or adapting a design from an outside firm (which carries its own cost), machining new molds and parts for production lines, and the costs associated with the ancillary items like corrugate trays or boxes, as well as the logistics for filling, storing, and shipping. Spreading those costs over millions of sellable packages is entirely worthwhile, but if an entrepreneur with a fantastic concept in mind is hoping to nudge into the beverage market with a limited production of several thousand cases, the cost associated with custom packaging quickly becomes untenable. And unfortunately, the struggles do not end there.
Every beverage package – be it a can, bottle, box, bag, or pouch – has to be filled somewhere. Contract manufacturers (or fillers) try to meet market needs by being versatile, but often custom packaging will be outside their capability for filling. This means there will often be more change parts, more logistical concerns, and more costs. And just as it was the case with the package manufacturer, the contract manufacturer will also ideally spread his costs across as many units as possible.
Despite the monumental concerns that come with custom packaging, there are still myriad opportunities for a product to stand out, even when filled into a “standard” package. Label and artwork design is at least as important as packaging, and even a top-notch label-design firm will cost far less than designing and implementing a custom package.
Ultimately, a bad beverage cannot be salvaged by a novelty package, but a fantastic beverage can – and often does – transcend the package from whence it came. Consumers may reach for the expensive bottle with the bells and whistles once, but they will reach for the best-tasting beverage at the right price time and time again.