In a bid to accelerate its connected closures business Italian wine and spirits supplier Guala Closures has acquired a 20% share in London-based digital IoT agency SharpEnd. Guala Closures Group chief marketing officer Paolo Ferrari and Violette Montagnese, group marketing director, discuss the deal and the company’s priorities in the area of connected packaging.
What was the logic behind the investment in SharpEnd?
PF: We’ve been actively developing a number of connected closure solutions in recent months, including our recently launched Nestgate collection with NFC technology. We first worked with SharpEnd while developing a spirits project for the Pernod-Ricard group and saw the potential of working more closely together: we have the hardware, while they have the software.
In addition, SharpEnd has a wide view of the consumer engagement market as it is active in a number of segments in addition to spirits and wine, including fragrance and fashion, two markets that differ significantly from our own and can provide us with valuable expertise.
SharpEnd was at a point in their development when they needed to scale up. While we may increase our share of the company, we will remain minority shareholders.
With this deal, will Guala Closures have the exclusivity for SharpEnd’s projets in the area of connected wine and spirits closures?
PF: If the client chooses to use the cap as the means of connecting the product via the chip, then yes, we’ll have exclusivity. We are 100% convinced that the right place to connect a product is through the closure due to both the ease of integration on the production line and the ease with which the consumer can read the information on the chip as well as the solidity of the solution due to how the chip is embedded in the cap.
What product segments are the most interested in these solutions?
PF: It’s still early days, but for the moment it’s more avant garde brands embarking on this kind of technology. Last year, we worked with SharpEnd on an NFC-enabled product for drinks brand Malibu in the US and wine producers from California (Boën) and from Italy. We’re currently developing three premium spirits projects. Although this business is accelerating, we believe that in terms of innovation, we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg.
Are brands looking more for traceability or marketing solutions for their connected closures?
VM: It really depends on the brand, but there is certainly a growing interest around traceability and strong demand for interaction with the end consumer in the wine, cognac and whisky segments.
Connected closures are also a plus when it comes to sustainable development initiatives as traceability measures mean reduced stock and a better controlled supply chain. We can also communicate recycling directives directly to the consumer and therefore avoid adding any additional packaging.