Phoenix Packaging isn’t limited by a catalog. They provide customized glass, metal, ceramic, and plastic containers. The brands that rely on them come from a range of industries including spirits, beer, wine, food, and cosmetics. We speak with Joel Miller, President of Phoenix Packaging, about how they help brands unlock their creativity through custom designs.
Phoenix Packaging creates one-of-a-kind bottle and jar designs. What sets you apart from other custom bottle makers?
Since we are solutions providers, not a manufacturer, we maintain the connections to work with experts in every field, whether it be glass, plastics, ceramics or metals to best supply our clients.
We listen to our clients and want to understand what they want to achieve. We don’t want to be a company that lists what we currently have in our catalog or warehouse, expecting customers to choose one of those.
Why close the door on the customer’s options? We’d rather have them explore what will best help them sell their product and get their imagery and branding across to the public before we have to start narrowing things down.
When are brands usually interested in a custom bottle?
To put it simply, I think every brand wants their own thing that sets them apart right away. But not everyone has the finances or the creativity at that moment to come up with something that is going to make sense.
When it comes to more established brands, they are not necessarily looking to create something completely new. Usually it’s just minor adjustments they are making, not a major overhaul.
Where those big brands will go to try something out of the norm, are either special editions or brand extensions. They want to create something new rather than retooling something old. If a brand needs to retool something old, it’s mainly because something is wrong, whether sales are dropping or they need a new image. So that’s when they would go ahead and decide to do something they haven’t done before.
Do brands usually experience a sales increase when they switch to customized packaging?
Brands experience a sales increase more often than not. It really comes down to the question of differentiation. As long as the change isn’t so dramatic that consumers still recognize that this is the same company.
There is usually a visible link in the change, whether it’s maintaining an aspect of what was there, like color schemes, so that it looks like a transition. For example, with Coca Cola, the signature is always there, even when they experiment with new packaging types and shapes.
When you come up with something new, you begin to separate yourself from your competition. It makes you more visible in the market.
Some of your bottles have very unique elements, from their shapes (like a skull shaped rum bottle) to their features (the custom cork that makes one of your bottles look like a scuba tank). Do brands usually come to you with concrete designs in mind or do they have just a faint idea that they need help to bring to reality?
I would say that most have a better idea of what they want to start with. They’ve worked with a marketing agency to develop a branding concept and come to us to see if it is possible.
Sometimes a 2-D rendering may look nice but it may be something that cannot be manufactured or the cost to manufacture may not be economically feasible. If a company’s first design ideas aren’t cost effective to manufacture, we tweak it so that it works. We help them find the right balance between imagery and cost to manufacture their concept.
How important is customized packaging for the spirits and beverage industry?
It’s very important but not necessarily critical for every brand. Sometimes we have to remember that simple is better.
When you look at spirits, some of the best selling brands are in standard bottles with only slight specialization. It’s nice to see successes like that. You don’t always need the greatest, fanciest package. But it is always a combination. You have to find the right balance between the quality of your product and its packaging.
If you have the greatest product on the market but your packaging is horrible and people don’t know of you, then consumers are never going to try it. If you have great packaging and a horrible product, then people will buy it once, but they are never going to buy it again.
Brands with the biggest success find the balance with packaging that matches the client’s expectations of the product.
How do you keep the balance between functionality and creativity?
When it comes to spirits, it’s more about the filling lines during production. If a bottle is not a standard shape or requires a special closure, production can become difficult.
The more removed from a traditional shape the bottle is, the more difficult it is to fill the bottle. Standard shapes flow and work in an easier pattern. Odd shapes cause problems but most of them can be resolved. It then becomes a question of how expensive it is to get the equipment to automate the process. A lot of the production can be done manually, but then you won’t have a high speed filling line.
We go over these logistics with our clients and let them know where they might run into issues in their filling lines or with capping. Brands have to adjust their production to work with some of the more creative concepts.
How has an increased consumer interest in recyclable and sustainable packaging changed the needs of your customers in the food and beverage industry?
The biggest change is companies becoming more interested in sustainable and recyclable materials. We present our clients with the percentage of recycled materials in our glass, plastic, and aluminum. Currently there is no perfect solution for the environment, we have to choose what the best option at the moment is.
We supply a lot of ceramic containers, which are one of the better options for sustainability. People have the tendency to repurpose them. Everything involved with ceramics is natural and goes back into the environment.
There has been a spike in demand for glass bottles across North America, in both spirits and cosmetics, with many brands switching to glass from plastic. Others are changing to renewable materials for closures, like natural cork and wood.
To reach the levels of sustainability that we need, there needs to be a big public shift. Plastic can be sustainable if we properly recycle and repurpose it, but the levels aren’t where they need to be. Packaging can help, but we need everyone to take the necessary steps so that it doesn’t stream back into our environment and oceans.
We face a lot of complex problems. I do think that things will change because people are gaining a first hand view of what happens when we squeeze mother nature too tight. Mother nature has a habit of throwing certain events at us when we grow too big too quickly.
Interested in what other designs Phoenix Packaging have worked on? Check out their catalog!