Super-premium spirits. Luxury wines. Special editions and exclusive releases. For upscale beverage brands, a custom bottle design can be a defining part of your visual identity.
Bespoke bottles work with label design, boxes, and other elements to elevate a brand’s premium position and celebrate its story. A striking bottle design stands out on retail shelves and in bar cabinets to catch the consumer’s eye before he even samples the product. It’s a beautiful, covetable object that’s worth talking about on social media. And it creates the perception that the product is worth a higher price point.
If you envision a fully custom package for your brand, here’s what you need to consider at the beginning of the design process.
Wine & Spirit Bottle Basics
Most wines and spirits are packaged in standard bottles whose forms have stood the test of time. These standard bottles are so familiar to customers that they signal what’s inside — we’ve come to recognize that a tall, dark green bottle holds a Bordeaux-style red wine, while a slender bottle with a long neck contains a Rhine or Riesling wine. A clear, square-sided bottle usually means gin, and a flask-shaped bottle cues that the spirit is small-batch or artisan. Mass bottle production is a fairly narrow industry with fewer than 10 global manufacturers.
Some brands have capitalized on distinctive bottle designs as part of their visual identity; they’re so iconic that the shape comes to represent the brand itself. (Think: Absolut.)
In between standard and fully bespoke are semi-custom bottles. Manufacturers can inscribe, emboss, or deboss off-the-shelf glass bottles with text or graphic elements. A semi-bespoke bottle allows elements of the brand identity to shine and creates a tactile experience, but saves considerably on cost and time over bespoke bottles.
Fully Custom Bottles: What to Know
Designing and producing a unique wine or spirits bottle takes expertise at every stage of the process. Questions abound: Will the label fit the bottle shape flawlessly? Will a custom shipping box be required? Can the bottle even be fabricated?
We look to past and present to find inspiration — not only for the shape of the vessel itself, but also for details and embellishments. Modeling software allows us to render the shape in 3D, which gives us a good baseline image of what the bottle will look like from all angles.
On a digital rendering, it’s impossible to see how the label fits the bottle and lays over irregular surfaces. A standard 3D printed prototype in solid plastic lets us test how the label adheres and make necessary modifications to both the bottle and label design. We can also ensure that the bottle will move smoothly through the filling and labeling lines. And we can begin fitting custom shipping or gift boxes to the prototype.
The material can be tinted and the label applied so that it mimics the finished product. Clients find that this Plexiglas prototype is realistic enough that they can photograph it for marketing purposes far in advance of having the final package. This is advantageous because glass manufacturing can be time-consuming, which may extend production and launch timelines. You can begin creating marketing assets while the bottle is being fabricated.
It also ensures that we select a vendor with the capabilities to actually make the bottle. Creating molds for manufacturing the glass is expensive — that’s why skipping the prototype step is risky. Two prototype phases allow you to test, refine, and change direction if needed quickly and relatively cheaply.
While it’s highly appealing, a fully bespoke bottle design isn’t the right option for every wine or spirits brand. It’s a matter of margin: will your category and your positioning allow for a higher price point to cover a higher cost of goods sold? Too, think about volume; a custom solution isn’t cost-effective under 50,000 units per year.