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‘Tattoos’ to replace labels on beer bottles to cut waste

The world’s largest brewer, AB InBev, is doing away with the paper labels that have adorned some of its beer bottles for decades in favour of imprinting branding on 200,000 bottles themselves.

AB InBev, the maker of Beck’s, Bud 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 UK 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,” said an AB InBev spokesperson.

The “direct object printing” 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 UK 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.

Other innovations in beer packaging

In July 2019, metal and glass packaging group, Ardagh, launched a new version of embossed cans, in 33cl and 50cl sizes, for AB Inbev’s Belgian beer brand, Jupiler.

Ardagh produced cans that were debossed on their lower halves for the Jupiler brand in 2014.

The latest version features debossed flutes that reflect the design of the Jupiler glassware as well as provide a functional benefit.

The brewer, though GITEC, also launched a new one-way polymer keg system, PureDraught, to keep beer fresh longer and reduce carbon footprint, earlier this year.

Available in 6L, 12L and 18L sizes, the PureDraught polymer keg system will help keep beer fresher up to four times compared to the traditional steel keg and minimise the carbon footprint of shipping.


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