Premium packaging

Premium packaging

Malcolm Sinclair highlights the current demands facing the luxury packaging sector…


With economic storm clouds gathering over the global retail scene, the luxury sector has had to work doubly hard to justify higher price points for hard-pressed consumers. It is telling that the premium spirits sector has weathered the storm particularly well, building volumes domestically and through its established and emerging global marketplaces. 

A key international success story is Scotch whisky, which has grown to become Scotland’s largest export, delivering millions in revenue and forging consumer loyalty from Dundee to Dehli. Its success has set the standard for spirits retailing across all categories through a clear strategy: understand the motivations of consumers; define the unique story of the brand and communicate this behind the bar or on the retail shelf in a way which engages with consumers.

The whisky industry has centuries of distilling excellence steeped in tradition and regional provenance to communicate on-shelf. Brands such as Laphroaig and Glenlivet have developed loyality programmes supported by thousands of members worldwide who are fascinated by the heritage and backstories of malts and capitalising on this goodwill through retail theatre is critical. At Tullis Russell, another successful Scottish export, we understand that powerful packaging lies at the heart of this challenge. First and foremost outer packaging needs to be strong enough to hold the bottle in place but it also needs to offer outstanding printability to carry the most demanding of print and print finishing techniques. Additionally, offering a range of coated and uncoated options along with a choice of surface finishes is of real benefit to brand holders, giving them the flexibility to subtly vary packaging styles to suit their individual brands.

For instance, we recently worked with Morrison Bowmore, respected internationally as the ‘single malt specialists’ who were looking for a strong packaging presence which would have stand out on shelf; successfully communicating the values of quality and legacy present in every drop of their malt whisky. Morrison Bowmore selected two of our uncoated boards trucard 0 matt and trucard 0 felt, from our trucard range of SBS cartonboard, for the outer box liner of the Auchentoshan; Glen Garioch; Bowmore Islay and McClelland’s brands. Trucard 0 offered two distinctive uncoated surfaces, providing the brand owner with the flexibility to tweak the packaging styles and reinforce design cues around luxury and heritage. In essence packaging in this sector needs to deliver exceptional print performance coupled with a high quality look and feel. Consumers shopping for malt in specialist shops or the aisles of international duty free retail outlets have time to browse and experience the product first hand. The travel retail channel in particular is renowned for offering first rate customer consultation and sampling opportunities – being able to feel quality through holding the bottle and the carton can only amplify this sales opportunity.

However, the world of premium spirits retailing extends way beyond the established strength of malt brands. Categories such as vodka, gin, rum, champagne, cognac and even exclusive wine collections have blazed a trail across the world’s design studios, setting standards in consumer marketing and innovative pack design.

The long alcoholic drinks category is led by ‘lifestyle’ brand leaders which need to reflect their increasingly sophisticated and media savvy consumers with packaging which is a sought after visual addition to the consumer’s home. The same principle applies to the on-trade market with style bars determined to showcase a ‘high end’ back bar stocked with stunning products to build the credibility of staff and excite customers. You only need to look at the contemporary profession of ‘mixology’ and the booming cocktail culture to appreciate packaging’s role in adding to bar theatre and justifying impressive margins.

The use of foiling, special varnishing and holograms are now commonplace and to unleash the true potential of these processes a resilient board is required to withstand several machine passes. One of the latest innovations seen is the use of new electroluminescent ink processes – giving dynamic product stand out on the shelf. As the richness of the technology advances the need for good board is as relevant as ever. In a multi-media world of citizen journalism and social networking, consumers expect engagement and this now extends to brand presentation. Perhaps we are now seeing a tipping point with packaging emerging as a new platform to complement smartphones and tablets in the world of consumer engagement.

In luxury packaging, the right result starts with the right choice. For our part it’s important that we continue to invest into our business by building strong partnerships, tracking trends and innovatively developing our product range to meet our customers’ requirements.

At a macro level we have a corporate commitment to sustainability which this year will manifest itself in the opening of a new £200 million Combined Heat & Power Biomass plant to supply all the steam and electricity requirements of our mill in Fife, Scotland.


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Stephanie Cornwall
Stephanie Cornwall