Making a Mark: The Changing Landscape of the Beer Aisle

Guest Blog Post by Ben Steele, Hornall Anderson

These days, a trip down the beer aisle can be downright overwhelming — with mainstream and craft brewers all vying for consumer attention in an increasingly crowded space. Consumers are demanding distinctive package design and true innovation.

The question is … are designers listening?

Graphic & Structural Trends

Mass domestics have seen dynamic change — from thermo chromic inks to custom forms. Inside the craft market, the focus is more on storytelling and creating a cohesive brand experience. The biggest recent trend in craft has been the move into cans—an unbroken design canvas with an opportunity to create a consistent story without the interruption of bottle structure.

Messaging Trends

Many breweries have created more personal narratives, bringing the voice of the brand and the brewery through on-pack. Copy is also being used as a design element, acting more like a billboard that grabs attention and less like body copy.

Brewery First

There has long been a tendency to name flagship beers more evocatively than functionally. Consumers will order the beer name and not place the emphasis on the actual brewery (or even sometimes be aware of it). The opportunity is to promote the vision and philosophy of the brewery first, and the beer as an extension of it.

 Current Design Challenges

The challenges are the same for beer designers as they are for all brands. How does this brand speak to me? What does it say about me? What is true about the brand that’s also true about the consumer, and how do brand designers convey that in the few seconds it takes to travel down the aisle?

Changing Beer Consumers

There’s definitely been increased focus on specialization—breweries known for a style, a taste, or an expertise. And part of the change is delivering to specific audiences exactly what they are looking for: you see more big IPAs, more deep Porters, and even hyper-specialized customer bases like Gluten-free.

 Innovate Like Brewers Do

The opportunity for designers is to catch up to the artistry being offered in the bottle or can. We need to be innovating in the same way the brewers are — to be telling stories in new ways, finding ways to break through to consumers and connect with them. The challenge is on us to do right by the breweries with which we work.

Ben Steele

Ben Steele is Executive Creative Director at Hornall Anderson. He is charged with leading the firm’s creative teams, as well as overseeing key client relationships “always emphasizing a solid concept as the foundation for great design.” Steele was a GDUSA ‘Person To Watch’ in January/February 2013.



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