How to Create a Successful Beer Packaging Design

by Terri Brown, CEO of MLB Creative

There are more than 4,200 breweries in the US today with craft consumption enjoying double- digit growth. Breweries are so prevalent that 75% of drinking age adults have a brewery within ten miles of home. New beer styles are being created every day plus a myriad of seasonal flavor options. The fight for shelf space is fierce, and the fight for consumer attention an all-out war. How can your beer stand out in beer aisles that have grown from a few feet to multiple aisles?


While you can try to affect a favorable shelf position via relationships with retailers, distributors, promos or even paying for premium shelf space, most brewers need to rely on packaging to make their retail statement. When designing your label, can, or carrier, here are factors to consider.

[Further Reading: 10 Intoxicating Beer Packaging Designs | Richly Detailed Beer & Liquor Packaging by Hired Guns Creative]

Assess Your Competition

Visit your local bottle shop. Take a visual sampling of beers likely to be on the shelves with yours. Keep this visual in mind as you plan your package design, asking constantly “Does my beer stand out? Is it unique? Would I select it?”

Know Your Drinker

Who do you think is most likely to drink your beer? Design your packaging to appeal to their likes, dislikes, and motivations. According to the Brewer’s Association, 57% of Millennials (21-29) are weekly craft beer drinkers. Millennial men purchase a craft brand that they have never heard of advertised 47% of the time and try 5.1 different brands per month says Nielsen Research. Packaging is key!

Cans or Bottles?

Retailers often display single bottles or cans so your labels have a lot of heavy lifting to do. Cans are a great canvas for a 360-design. Limited operation breweries can make a statement with pressure sensitive labeling adhered to batch printed cans for big shelf presence. For bottles, the shape of the label, the necker, and cap – and inside the cap — communicates your brand. Even label stock makes a statement. According to a Clemson University study, customers fixate on glossy film labels while clear film labels keep shoppers interested longer. Paper labels give a cheaper appearance; consider metallics and films instead for a top shelf look. 

Naming your Beer

Seems every wacky name for a beer has been used. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has reportedly received at least 25,000 active registration applications from the beer industry. Regardless of name, be descriptive of what style is in the bottle. Confused hop heads will just snag the more forward choice.

Tell your story.

Research by packaging company MeadWestVaco showed that 64% of craft shoppers purchased something new after reading the label — spending on average a full 4.5 minutes reading beer labels. We’re thirsty for a beer with a good story. Give your market something unique to love about your brand. Authenticity, community and sustainability are key words to get your copywriter started.

Sell by Design.

Creatively designed packages fly off the shelf, regardless of flavor. Every area of the label should be treated as an important marketing tool. Here’s a graphic design checklist for beer packaging:

  • Make important text legible from a distance (think of it like a billboard).
  • Graphics should be memorable (New Belgium’s Fat Tire and its classic bicycle) as well as distinct, easily-recognizable, with unique, identifiable shapes (Sierra Nevada).
  • Choose colors that help your labels stand out (Cigar City Brewing).
  • Be prepared to go through many iterations — it may take trial and error to discover your true beer character.

Your package is as important as what’s in it. First impressions count big. Grab a beer for inspiration and start designing your craft beer label.

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