Cold Foil Enhancement in the High-End Spirits Market

by Lara Copeland, assistant editor, PostPress
Photo taken by Sean Fenzl and supplied by Hired Guns Creative.

Honey has been used as food and as medicine since ancient times; today, it is typically used as a sweetener for both food and beverages. While it may commonly replace cane sugar in baking or enhance the flavor of tea, its use in the production of alcoholic beverages is sometimes overlooked. Due to its high sugar content, honey is easily fermented into spirits such as vodka. Unruly Vodka, from British Columbia-based distillation house, Wayward, is one such spirit utilizing honey in this manner. As the only distillery in Canada to incorporate the sweetener as its spirits’ base, the company wanted this unique quality reflected on its product label. Hired Guns Creative, a Nanaimo, British Columbia-based design firm specializing in packaging for the alcohol industry, designed the label’s unique look. Glenmore Custom Print & Packaging, Richmond, British Columbia, was then brought on board to assist with the intricate cold foiling and paperboard packaging.

Founded in 1981 by Glenn Rowley, Glenmore focuses on packaging for food, confectionary, pharmaceutical, beverage and nutraceutical brand owners, designers and end users. Now run by son James Rowley, the company spends half of its time doing commercial print – including high-end custom projects; the Wayward Vodka label and bottle wrap being one such job. The complicated design with intricate detail makes the bottle stand out from the crowded shelves, and Glenmore recently received an FSEA Gold Leaf Award for its use of cold foil on the bottle wrap.

While craft beers have enjoyed the high-end packaging spotlight for quite some time, craft distilleries are just starting to be known for similar trends. When the Canadian government began relaxing liquor laws in 2013, the production of artisan spirits became a viable means to make a living. Following this policy change, British Columbia alone has seen the number of craft distilleries nearly double in the past two years. Printing and packaging companies, like Glenmore, have seen this growth echoed in their production demands. Glenmore Operations Manager Stefan Congram, explained, “While commodity food grade packaging keeps the presses running at Glenmore on a more consistent basis, a large portion of our customer base comes from ultra-custom high-end products for beer, wine and spirits.”

Glenmore is the only company in its area that provides cold foil on packaging and ultra high-end paperboard packaging. Though this market is new to the company, Congram shared that it has certainly received a lot of interest recently. “Foil and print enhancements lend themselves very well for spirits and wine because these vintners and distillers are selling a premium product at a premium price and have the extra budget for these enhancements,” he stated. Both Wayward and Glenmore understand the impact foil plays in shelf appeal and thus product sales. Using print enhancements, cold foil included, helps clients convey a brand message that resonates with the consumer. Cold foil attracts attention from customers in well-lit retail locations and “once you have their attention on your product and it looks as amazing as this piece,” Congram added, “the natural reaction is to pick it up to admire the packaging.”

Considering the market for craft distilleries is still in its infancy, Wayward needed packaging to be appealing and affordable. Some spirits come in costly high-end boxes or wooden crates, but a bottle wrap can provide the same high-end effect at a more reasonable rate. Ultimately, the customer decided that a bottle wrap would create more shelf appeal than regular labels provide.

After going into full production on its new Eagle Systems Eco-Eagle cold foiling unit that is mounted on a new Heidelberg XL106, the Wayward label was among the first live jobs printed at the shop. Congram revealed that the process proved to be very smooth with few challenges. The label was originally printed as a double hit metallic copper ink plus two varnishes, but as Congram noted, “We happened to see this piece and instantly knew we could make it special with our inline cold foil. We approached the customer and showed them some other cold foil samples. They were interested immediately.”

The unique combination of blankets, adhesive, foil choice and stock ensured that lines can be held to .25pt with consistency. “Doing this project with our inline cold foil system allowed us to achieve the insane detail in the hair on the bee’s back, as well as hold the fine lines that are prominent throughout the piece,” stated Condram. He continued that overprinting the foil to achieve the copper color allowed for the hue of the copper to align with the customer’s requirements. Furthermore, the high-contrasting varnishes on the label lend themselves to highlighting the foil and adding depth to the already rich background. This makes the foil on the Wayward bottle wrap almost look three-dimensional. “Unseen is unsold, and with print enhancements like these, your chances of selling your product increases exponentially when compared to un-enhanced products,” Congram asserted.

Utilizing its technology to the fullest potential, Glenmore is “an A+ press team who had no problem with the challenge of cold foil once the system settings were dialed in with the right substrates,” Congram highlighted. When conducting the press check to see the finished piece, he emphasized the customer was very pleased and reportedly grinning from ear-to-ear. Considering the ultimate goal is to persuade the buyer to not only pick up the bottle, but to also buy it, both companies believe this work is a success.