As you prepare your entries for the HEINEKEN Sustainability Challenge, we thought we'd take a moment to look at one of HEINEKEN's most recent innovations in packaging design: the STR Bottle. Leveraging some of the key components of the Sustainability Challenge, the STR Bottle uses recyclable aluminum cans and pushes forth new packaging innovation in the market. Core77 had an opportunity to chat with Mark van Iterson, Global Head of Design at Heineken, and John McGuire, Project Manager Packaging Innovation Heineken International, about the design and innovations introduced in the STR bottle. The aluminum can was introduced to high end nightclub environments around the world and the UV-sensitive ink illuminates under black lights to reveal a surprise graphic on the bottle.
Core77: HEINEKEN has a long history of innovation for both on-premise and off-premise packaging and design. How does HEINEKEN define innovation? Why is it important for your category?
Mark van Iterson (MvI): We define innovation as everything that adds value to the consumer experience. That could be packaging, but also the way we serve the beer, for example extra cold. Or merchandise items like the perfect glass or tray.
Innovation sets us apart from our competitors. Heineken is progressive and inventive, while the category is relatively traditional. In the end innovations will create added value and differentiation.
What were some of the key cultural and design considerations you were trying to address when you started work on the STR Bottle? How does the final packaging design look towards the next phase in packaging?
MvI: STR is for specific types of outlets and occasions; night, dance, top end. These outlets and its consumers are very design minded, and sensitive for the looks of things. STR bottle is a typical progressive and outspoken design statement; very stylish, minimalistic in a way, but also iconic. Subtly branded, and with a hidden surprise in the UV inks that only flair up under black-lights.
The progressive nature of the STR design could also be considered as a scout for the Heineken brand. It's exploring new territories.
New bottle holders introduced last week at HEINEKEN's "Club of the Future" in Milan
The most exciting design innovation for the STR bottle is the technique used to affix a UV-sensitive ink to the aluminum bottle. What are some of the processes behind this technique?
John McGuire (JMcG): UV or Invisible ink as it is also called, has its origins in anti-counterfeiting. The ultraviolet ink becomes visible when exposed to the black light. It's this ability look different in different light sources which we were after. Careful consideration for how the print is constructed and placed on the non-printed areas of the bottle ensure that it has the signature purple tone that is now synonymous with image of the STR bottle in bars and clubs.
MvI: The beauty of the UV inks is that it is designed as a surprise. The technology in itself was not revolutionary, this way applying it is. It creates excitement and talkability.
How does this printing technique affect the cost of the bottle compared to a regular bottle?
JMcG: Normally there is an on-cost due to the additional effect that this brings but careful negotiation on the project ensured that this was at the same cost as a regular bottle, opening up this technology and effect for our future range of aluminium bottles.
Why the shift to an aluminum bottle?
MvI: It's not a shift. It's a very limited additional bottle type, for a very limited number of hi end outlets. Aluminium has a very premium look and feel. It looks stylish and fresh. It feels cold in your hands. And it's still very distinctive from the usual glass bottles.
Also important in clubs with dance floors, or even with outdoor areas like roofterraces or pools, is the safety. It's unbreakable and light.
Heineken STR bottle capsule created by 48-Hour Innovation Challenge participant Janne Kytannen, Freedom of Creation
The new STR Bottle has a very minimal representation of the word mark and the logo, yet it is immediately identifiable. After 140 years, when people see a white star and a green bottle, do they automatically associate it with the brand? How far can you see this going?
MvI: Indeed. The Heineken brand is so iconic that you only need to see a part of it to recognize it. That didn't happen overnight. It's the result of 140 years of careful brand- and design management. And it's also the result of daring to crop the brand and rely on its iconic values. STR is a great example of maximum branding with minimal elements. 100% Heineken but very subtle at the same time.
One of our most popular posts on Core77 was about a square bottle; although there are many water brands with square designs, the trend has not really taken ahold in the brewing category. Why is that?
JMcG: A square shape is fundamentally impossible for a carbonated beverage. The limitation to the design shape is due to the carbonation of the beer. Round shapes ensure the correct distribution of pressure in the pack. Anything which is not round will deform under pressure so a square pack will simply buckle and burst. Only non-carbonated products can use non round shapes.
Heineken Limited Edition Design Challenge - Winning Designs by Rodolfo Kusulas of Monterrey, Mexico and Lee Dunford of Sydney, Australia
With the rise of digital social and networked platforms, what are some of the ways that Heineken are utilising virtual tools to connect people to your real-world product enjoyed in real-world social spaces?
MvI: Recently, for example, we invited consumers via Facebook to design a future bottle for Heineken, and to connect online with another bottle design. Like a virtual cheers. Over 30,000 consumers created designs and connected. There were extremely well designed bottles amongst the top 100 and we will produce and sell the winning design connection around the globe.
Another example is the concept-nightclub that we unveiled during the Salone del Mobile in Milan last week. Designed by emerging designers from 4 different continents, who were recruited via online invitations. The entire creative collaborative process took place on an online creative hub, like a virtual lab.
Heineken "Club of the Future" at Salone del Mobile Milan 2012
What are some trends you are seeing in the larger design field (color, shape, transportation, interiors, materials, communication design etc.) that you hope to incorporate into HEINEKEN's design language?
MvI: There's many trends in parallel, quite eclectic. The style of Heineken is pretty much about simplicity. Trying to be to the point; less is more. But it depends on the goal, the context and occasion. Sometimes we love to go to the extreme as well. Important is to never become predictable, always keep on exploring and surprising!
Think you can do better? Here's your chance to make your packaging ideas a reality. Share your sustainable ideas on the future of beer packaging for a chance to win $10,000!
» By May 8th - An elevator pitch and 3 images (plus a more in-depth .pdf if you'd like)
» PROMOTE YOUR IDEAS - The more votes you get, the better your chances are to move to Phase 2!
» By May 29th - 100 participants will be chosen to participate in Phase 2, a closed innovation environment where participants will work with HEINEKEN experts on developing ideas.
» By June 2012 - one winner will be selected to win the grand prize of $10,000!