VS Pack: wine & spirits packaging innovations round up

Katie Nichol

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VS Pack: wine & spirits packaging innovations round up

Sustainable closures, new decoration techniques and label innovations were on show at this year’s VS Pack. Held in Cognac, France, from December 7th-9th and organized by Atlanpack, the trade show welcomed over 100 exhibitors.

Fewer visitors than the 2019 edition – covid times oblige – but fruitful meetings with more qualitative profiles was the general mood on the show floor at wine and spirits packaging event VS Pack. Exhibitors spoke of rising raw material prices and tensions in the supply chain, while sustainability continued to be a key area of focus when it came to the products on show. We spotlight a selection of innovations that stood out.

Innovations in the spotlight

Rivercap highlighted Absolute Green Line, a complex secondary closure capsule for still wines launched earlier this year. It is made of a layer of sugarcane-derived PE between two layers of aluminum. The capsule is printed with water-based inks.

Bernadet showed Orverre, a screenprinting technique that creates metallic effects. Gold metallic pigments, developed according to green chemistry principles and using mainly recycled materials, are produced by the Ugiel laboratory in France’s Nouvelle Aquitaine region and integrated into Bernadet’s screenprinting inks. Once the décor is applied to the bottle, text can be screenprinted on top for a label-like effect.

Isola, a newly minted company, showcased its innovation designed to provide consumers with an interactive experience in line with the “do-it-yourself-at-home” trend. A cork closure with two different diameters makes it possible for a watertight glass tube to be submerged in a bottle. A cigar in a bottle of whisky, spices in a bottle of rum, electronics for the nightclub scene… the possibilities are infinite, says Isola, which plans to license the patented design.

First-time exhibitor Konica Minolta, a Japanese specialist in digital printing machines, is targeting the luxury sector with its digital embellishment technology. Used to add a wide range of hot foil colors and 2D and 3D lacquer to labels and secondary packs, digital embellishment reduces time-to-market and can be used for small runs. It also has the advantage of generating less waste than with traditional printing techniques. The company is also developing a new machine for ink-jet printing on cardboard.

On display at the show was PITPIT, a French whisky concept that is the fruit of a collaboration between label printer Lithobru, design agency Maison Linea, glass bottle specialist Discoglass and stoppers producer Setop. Lithobru piloted the concept with the idea of showcasing its exclusive, 100% recycled paper made from cardboard waste. The paper was used for both the label and the security ring on the neck of the bottle. An illustration of a pitpit, a French bird from which the project takes its name, adorns the label. It combines offset printing in blue and red, with white, three-layer screenprinting used to create the graded effect of the name. Maison Linea also designed the flask-shaped bottle that is now part of Discoglass’ stock offer. The cork closure – Setop’s Element model – is made of 80% industrial cork by-products and 20% binder.

Verpack presented a recyclable, 100% cardboard coffret. The supplier first developed the secondary pack for cosmetics, and has now adapted it to the wines & spirits market. Free of magnets and delivered flat, the coffret closes thanks to a cardboard tab. The structure and standalone insert are based on flute, resulting in a weight reduction of 40%. The pack is produced using automatic production in Burgundy, France, while this type of pack is generally handmade in China, says the supplier.

Polish company Merkury Ateliers showed boxes made from a combination of wood veneer and paper, positioned as a lightweight alternative to wooden coffrets. Said to be three times lighter and three times cheaper than wooden boxes, Merkury Ateliers’ offering can incorporate hinges, magnets or inserts. Decoration options include embossing and hot stamping.

Berlin Packaging/Bruni Glass showed new standards models. The Sublime Spirits Collection unites 15 bottle designs across three categories: Prestige (decanters), Super-Premium and Premium. Part of the Prestige line, Amethyst is a modern, faceted decanter with rounded lines. Super-Premium’s Arya is a minimalist design with gently sloping shoulders. Nobilis, part of the Premium range, is intended to house liqueurs. It combines angular shoulders with rounded corners at the base. The supplier also presented Sélection Rosé by Itinera Collection, a line of three bottles for rosé wines.

Glassmaker Saverglass highlighted its Supreme carafe, designed for super-premium spirits. With greater glass distribution towards the bottom, it has round shoulders, straight sides and a thick base.

Aptar Beauty + Home showcased its offer of custom luxury closures, a small but growing portion of the group's business first founded in 2006. "We're looking to reconquer the bespoke closures market for spirits," explains Sales Engineer Laure Lesznewski. Aptar's solutions include a range of "no petrol" caps made of materials including castor bean oil and galalith, while composite solutions integrate natural products including oyster and scallop shells, grape vine, wood. These are in addition to an offer of traditional plastic and aluminum closures. In other news, the supplier has broken ground on its new production site in Oyonnax, France, which will gather five existing sites into a single 25,000m2 location. The new facility is to be inaugurated late next year.

Closures specialist Technicaps presented its Infinity bakelite caps made of 40% wood cellulose. Said to be the first standard bakelite cap for spirits, it is formed using compression molding, with no reworking, which produces a more high-end result than injection molding, the supplier says. Decoration options include metallization, hot-stamping, engraving and syringe deposition. Multi-component assembly is also possible; for example, adding aluminum plates or a weighted component. The cap is 100% recyclable.

Spiripack Crédit Agricole awards

At the show, the fifth edition of the Spiripack Crédit Agricole awards recognized innovations from exhibitors, which were on display in a dedicated area.

The Gold Award went to Van Genechten Packaging for Spiritique’s Yu Gin. The monomaterial, plastic-free secondary pack is 100% recyclable. The folding carton is made using a single sheet for both the coffret and the insert, and affords a transverse view of the product within. The window cut-outs were used for the internal walls, reducing the amount of material used while strengthening the structure.

The Silver prize went to Tapi for its T-cask stopper. Deep engraving around the stopper’s circumference is a nod to the end-of-life ageing barrels that are reused to create the head of these eco-designed closures.

Label specialist Inessens scooped the bronze award for its gin concept. The facing label has a "key hole" cut out allowing the reverse side of the back label to show through, giving the viewer a peek at the visuals depicting the three stages of the gin production process. Inessens called on Saverglass for the bottle and Technicaps for the cap, while the design was the work of Virginie Drahonnet of Cognac-based agency Citrus Aurantium.

French glass decoration specialist Bernadet wonthe coup de coeur jury prize for Decowax, its innovation for decorating wax seal stamps, positioned as an alternative to plastic seals. A range of colors, including gold and silver are applied to the relief texture thanks to “a combination of techniques” that the supplier is keeping under wraps. The technical prowess, according to Bernadet, lies in being able to decorate wax, a malleable material that reacts to heat.

VS Pack also highlighted entries to the Freepack Spirit annual competition for design students organized by France’s Institut National du Design Packaging. The theme of this 10th edition was “Packaging Design & Reuse”. A coffret that can be repurposed as a coat hook, rolling pin, coaster, board game, terrarium or lamp… the submissions were numerous, with the winner set to be announced at the show on December 9th.

VS Pack had a rich conference program over the three days of the event. Formes de Luxe and Luxe Packaging Insight’s Editorial Director Alissa Demorest moderated a round table discussion on the complexities of creating ecological closures for the spirits industry. Panelists included Christophe Sauvaud (Amorim), Guillaume Monin (Les Bouchages Delage) and Gian-Marco Fiorini (Labrenta).

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