In what’s hopefully the start of a trend for small craft breweries, Denver’s Copper Kettle Brewing announced a switch to environmentally friendly printed cans for its flagship beers. Earlier this year we talked with head brewer Greg Moore about barriers to greener packaging. Since then, Copper Kettle has worked diligently to find a option that’s easily recyclable, cost-effective and actually easier on the production line.
Canworks Technology Helps Smaller Breweries
Copper Kettle has worked to improve sustainability for several years, even to the point of bartenders stripping labels and wraps after pouring from cans. However brewery staff had been frustrated by obstacles facing many small breweries — namely, cost and purchase minimums for printed cans. The cost was significantly more than other options, and minimum quantities were huge.
Moore and Copper Kettle co-owner Jeremy Gobien continued looking for workable options and finally found a partner in Texas-based Canworks.
“It made sense cost-wise, we think they look better and they’re much less of a pain to actually run (on the canning line),” says Moore. “We don’t have to spend hours fighting the canner and the labeler.”
Canworks will print cans in quantities as low as one pallet, which is perfect for smaller craft breweries.
Copper Kettle has already started canning its core lineup in printed cans. The brewery is evaluating ways to use them for seasonals, too, while it works through the existing inventory of cans. Moore and Gobien’s ultimate goal is to use 100% printed cans.
Printed Cans = Easy Recycling
Copper Kettle’s new cans are preferable to labeled or shrink-wrapped cans because recycling-center technology often identifies labels and wrap as plastic. The cans get sorted with the plastics and often end up in the landfill. Meanwhile, correctly identified aluminum is endlessly recyclable and saves 95% of the energy used to produce a new can. Consumers no longer need to remove can coverings to ensure cans are recycled.
New Cans Showcase New Look
The printed cans also served as a catalyst for a full rebrand, a realignment of the core lineup and a new distributor. Graphic designer and marketing director Anna Long acknowledged that there had been some drift in previous designs, presenting an opportunity to unify the Copper Kettle look and feel.
“We want to gain brand loyalty and awareness,” she says. “We’re going with a very illustrated style.”
The new graphics lean on the brewery’s existing Kettle People, who are stylized versions of a copper brewing kettle, engaged in a variety of fun outdoor activities. Copper Kettle’s new cans leverage Canworks’ digital printing technology, with colorful graphics designed to stand out on store shelves.
“The cans look so much more professional,” says Long. “It makes the artwork look so much better.”
Copper Kettle’s core lineup of European-Style Pilsner, Contains Happiness Pale Ale, Morale Boost IPA and its newly added Mexican Chocolate Stout are available in the updated cans in stores and at the taproom.
Copper Kettle’s New Cans an All-Around Win
In the end, switching to printed cans turned out to be a win for Copper Kettle on numerous levels including cost and branding, along with an environmental success. Perhaps the biggest win is a mental one for staff—they no longer have to fight a finicky labeler on the front end, then struggle on the back end to remove labels from can pours.
Featured image photo credit: Anna Long, Copper Kettle Brewing