Is the Alcohol Market Plain Packaging's Next Target?
In recent months, the international packaging industry has been abuzz with news of plain packaging. Although it doesn't currently affect the U.S. market, lawmakers in Ireland, Australia, the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and more have either passed legislation (or expressed the intent to) requiring tobacco packaging to abide by a stringent set of rules, depending on the country. Some countries now require the inclusion of large written warnings, graphic images or even a very unappealing greenish-brown to be used as the primary color on tobacco packaging.
And now, alcohol might be next.
According to The Guardian, a report that was released in December 2016 from Public Health England (a government advisory board) suggested that it was possible for alcohol to eventually be subjected to the same scrutiny that tobacco has faced in recent years. Bottles of alcohol could be sold in plain packaging with large health warnings — even graphic images. Just recently, a study was published in the U.K. recommending plain packaging to "emphasize the risks associated with excessive drinking," according to The Guardian.
As The Guardian points out, there is already a voluntary alcohol labeling deal that includes "warning labels indicating the unit alcohol content, the chief medical officer’s alcohol guidelines and a pregnancy warning."
But for some craft brewers and distillers, the idea of plain packaging is terrifying. Jared Brown, co-founder of Sipsmith, a U.K.-based micro-distillery told The Guardian:
Are they considering similar labels for bacon? Fish and chips? Crisps? It’s an absurdity. It will crush the craft side of the industry. It will shift the business back to the industrial producers, who will be very happy to move people back to mass-produced drinks. If something like this comes through we won’t be able to weather it.
Packaging Perspective: Brown has a point. For craft brewers and distillers, packaging design is crucial; it can make or break a brand. In many cases, the ability to meld various substrates, foils, inks and effects is the only strategy to set one varietal apart from another. Dave Collins, marketing director, specialty, at Avery Dennison, explained to packagePRINTING last year, that labels with metallized films, heavy embossing, thicker paper and tactile elements help to differentiate brands on-shelf.
By eliminating the creative aspect of packaging, it's hard to say what would happen to lesser known brands that ordinarily rely heavily on attractive packaging.
Along another line of thinking, Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty, a legal team specializing in wine law and serving Napa Valley and beyond, wrote about plain packaging for alcohol in a blog in 2014, citing concerns from the beverage industry that it could cause an increase in counterfeiting and consumer fraud, "particularly in the premium liquor space."
If all the chips were to fall into place and plain packaging took hold of the beverage industry, maybe we would start to see a more significant rise in NFC technology to prevent counterfeiting.