While the Pernod Ricard-owned brand has championed this approach in partnership with Ardagh’s Limmared glass plant in Sweden, the packaging manufacturer says there is no reason why a UK plant could not generate similarly variable decorative effects for other brands.
In the case of Absolut Originality, a small amount of cobalt blue was combined with the molten glass at the ‘hot end’ of the process, creating a unique signature within each bottle. After several trials, four million bottles were produced over a three-week period.
Last year, the brand teamed up with Ardagh to create the Absolut Unique limited edition range, using coatings rather than in-glass decoration to distinguish packs.
‘Continuing that journey’
“It was a step into new territory, in particular for our decoration facility in Sweden, and Originality is continuing that journey,” said head of marketing for Ardagh’s European glass business Sharon Crayton.
These projects have been particularly novel and exciting, she added, because most packaging production is focused on the principles of standardisation and repeatability, whereas these concepts totally challenged those conventions.
Decoration and production systems were optimised to give the desired randomisation, and complex algorithms were utilised to ensure maximum variability.
Chief executive of European glass at Ardagh Johan Gorter said: “The [Originality] concept takes unique bottle design to the next level, where the decoration is achieved within the glass container, rather than being added to the outer surface after production.”
Could comparable effects be achieved in the UK? “While Limmared has extensive decoration capabilities, our Barnsley plant in the UK offers broadly similar options,” Crayton explained.
The two projects are said to have generated interest among other brand owners. “At industry events, people will often ask how the packs were created,” she reported.
“It could be cutting a template for the future. But while it makes sense for a premium brand, would it work for others?” she asked. “How many brands would have the ambition, and the confidence, to see through something like this? But also, how can we deliver uniqueness in different ways, relevant to other categories?”
No doubt, Ardagh could have added ‘cost’ to the list of potential barriers here.
Absolut is understood to have intellectual property protection over the streaked bottle effect. But Crayton said: “In principle, the option of creating unique designs is there for everyone.”