Heineken Launches New Bottle. Will Other Beers be Green with Envy?

photo composite: HeinekenGood things come in tall packages—at least according to Heineken, which is rolling out a fancy new long-neck beer bottle in the U.S. this month following its heralded release around the globe. It's the first major package redesign for the brand since 1946.

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Heineken’s new “star bottle,” which has been in select New York markets since September, features “a curved embossment, inspired by the iconic racetrack label,” as well as a “thumb groove that improves bottle grip and encourages drinkers to hold the bottle at a lower point, keeping the beer colder,” said a company spokesperson, adding that a lower grasp is meant to help block out sunlight.

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It’s just the latest in a beer-industry trend that has manufacturers experimenting with all sorts of new package innovations. Miller Lite, for instance, is following last year’s “punch top can” (to improve air flow and aid with a smoother pour) with a newly designed bottle for bars and restaurants, reports Advertising Age. Bud Light is planning to roll out a new “vented can” (another smooth-pour trick), while Budweiser is debuting a “bow-tie” shaped can, taking its brand logo design to new places.

So what’s the big idea?

“There’s been an increased emphasis on packaging among leading brewers in the last several years,” Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, which reports on and analyzes beer industry information, told Yahoo! Shine. “It’s more cost effective than launching a new brand, which is very daunting, costing tens of millions.”

And, because consumers are increasingly seeking innovation, flavor and variety, he added, “There’s pressure to have new news.”

Christopher Thorne, vice president of communications for the Beer Institute’, which represents the U.S.’s $223 billion beer industry, also weighed in on the wave of new bottles and cans. “It’s exciting,” he told Shine. “I think people are looking for new ways and new occasions to experience what beer is all about.”

Heineken’s new bottle, Steinman noted, has been “keenly anticipated” in the U.S.

“It looks more upscale and more contemporary then what they had before,” he said, adding that he could not speak to whether the thumb positioner would actually help beer taste better or stay colder. But the move, he explained, like those of other beer makers, could be a helpful marketing strategy.

And that can really pay off, he explained, recounting the introduction of Miller Lite’s punch-top can last year, which boosted sales slightly. “The impact,” he said, “is not insignificant.”

Another success story has been Anheuser Busch’s launch of Bud Lite Platinum in early 2012, which combined innovative packaging (in this case, a cobalt-blue bottle) with a totally new brand.

“It did extremely well,” Steinman said. “At least in year one.”

Indeed, according to industry data, Bud Light Platinum has proven to be the most successful brand launch in the U.S. alcohol industry since 2005.  “Within two weeks of launch, Bud Light Platinum reached more than 90 percent distribution and through April 1, 2012, claimed a 1.4 percent market share,” said an Anheuser Busch press release.  

Only time will tell if Heineken's move will cause the same kind of buzz.

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