For wine and spirits producers, a custom-designed bottle may seem out of reach. After all, these one-of-a-kind vessels — with elegant embossing, distinctive faceting, or uncommon shapes — look and feel expensive. And they are.
But bespoke bottles aren’t just for huge global producers. There are situations where a custom or semi-custom bottle makes sense for smaller brands, too.
Special Packaging for Special Products
First, let’s address the obvious situations where a bespoke bottle is a must-have. When the liquid inside is exquisite, expensive, and exclusive — made for special occasions — it makes sense for the producer to invest in a custom package. Connoisseurs expect a superior experience with the product, from unboxing to pouring to sipping. This is why it’s common to see high-end brandies and cognacs presented in unique bottles.
An elegant custom bottle elevates the consumer’s perception of the product and enhances enjoyment. It becomes an avatar for the brand, signaling quality and exclusivity. Too, it becomes a covetable object in itself, a status symbol that might be displayed on a home bar.
But bespoke bottles aren’t solely for $200 cognacs that are made in such limited editions that they get snapped up by collectors before they reach store shelves.
Should You Consider a Bespoke Bottle?
A custom bottle may be a good option for a mass-market brand, as well, and there are two specific scenarios where it may make sense:
1. Economies of scale. We generally advise clients that an annual production of more than 100,000 bottles is the baseline for a non-standard bottle. At that level, the price per unit for the custom bottle gets diluted over the entire production run so that it makes financial sense. Sometimes, geography makes a difference in pricing. For example, our client Crazy Cock opted for a bespoke bottle because in India it was more economical to make a custom bottle than to ship a conventional bottle in bulk from Europe.
2. Brand-building. When the producer is seeking a competitive advantage on the shelf, a fully or semi-custom bottle becomes a smart investment in building a dominant brand. Nothing captures the consumer’s eye like a stunning package. In this scenario, the bottle design and production are considered part of the brand budget, not the product cost. Again, the investment is spread out over many units and many years.
Custom Bottle Advantages & Disadvantages
When you’re considering a one-of-a-kind bottle design, understand where the true expense lies. It’s not in producing each bottle — it’s largely a one-time, up-front investment in creating the mold from which each bottle is manufactured. From there on, the more bottles you produce, the cheaper each one becomes.
Initial investment is one disadvantage. The production time for a custom bottle can add to your go-to-market timeline, and it can vary from six months to a year to get the bottle designed, prototyped, and manufactured. In addition, you are committed to a single manufacturer, which limits your flexibility in case of production shortfalls; you can’t simply order an off-the-shelf bottle from another maker.
That exclusivity, though, can also be an advantage. Because you own the bottle and control the production, you don’t have to worry about a standard bottle being discontinued or running out of stock. And, of course, that unique bottle enhances the reputation of the brand.
If you go the custom route, you’ll want a creative partner like us to help manage the process. In our experience, complex projects like these work best when we take care of everything – bottle, label, and box – to ensure that every element works holistically together. A single point of management also minimizes lag time and miscommunication throughout the process. It’s not just about creating a stunning design; it’s also essential to create the right kind of prototype to ensure that the bottle works on your filling line and that the label fits perfectly.
Thanks to global competition among glassmakers, the price of custom bottles is coming down, putting them in reach for more and more brands. If you’re interested in learning more, let’s talk.