The world’s largest brewer is doing away with the paper labels that have adorned some of its beer bottles for decades in favor of imprinting branding on 200,000 bottles themselves, MarketWatch can reveal.
AB InBev, the maker of Beck’s /zigman2/quotes/203831500/delayed BE:ABI +1.03% /zigman2/quotes/202879787/delayed IT:ABI +0.94% /zigman2/quotes/209225053/composite BUD -0.66% and hundreds of other beers, is pioneering new technology to “tattoo” its designs onto the bottles using only ink.
If successful, the new scheme, which has environmental and cost benefits due to the reduction in paper, could be expanded from the U.K. globally.
“While fuller economic-footprint analyses are still being done of the new technology, printing directly onto the bottle will remove label materials used in more traditional printing methods,” an AB InBev spokesperson told MarketWatch.
The Belgium-listed company is about to announce the introduction of “direct object printing” on its beer bottles. The technology is being developed in the brewer’s Tattoo Alpha Plant in Haasrode, in Leuven, Belgium.
While AB InBev has previously tested the innovation on small batches to mark specific occasions, this would be the first time the technology has been used in the broader mass market.
Here’s how the process branding technique works: Ink and varnish are applied directly to the glass with a “no-label” look, which wraps around the entire bottle. It also is digitally embossed, giving it a tactile effect.
“Direct object printing on glass is a revolution in print and AB InBev is pioneering this technology,” said Simon Gerdesmann, manager of the Tattoo Alpha Print, or TAP, site. “This digital embossing is one of the most unusual capabilities of this technology. Colourless ink is used to [mimic] traditional glass embossing, bringing a new dimension to bottle decoration — consumers will feel and experience a bottle in a completely different way.”
The bottles are being launched in the U.K. as part of a limited-edition run of Beck’s Artist Series, a collaboration between the company’s Global Innovation and Technology Center and six up-and-coming artists. There are to be nine bottle designs in the collaboration.
The technology also means designs for small batches are now possible four weeks faster than traditional labels, from design to retail shelves.
Last week Danish brewer Carlsberg announced it had developed its first prototype bottles made out of paper that can be pulped and recycled after use.