Beverage packaging: The golden beer in the black bottle

David Bellm

March 11, 2015

5 Min Read
Beverage packaging: The golden beer in the black bottle

Simpatico beer is again changing the look of the North American beer industry. The golden beer in the black bottle, which is imported from Mexico, returns to the U.S. market this summer in a signature black bottle, which was developed in partnership with O-I.

Introduced to the U.S. in 1987, Simpatico, which was the largest-selling first-year import beer in history, was imported to the U.S. until the mid 1990s, when production halted. The handcrafted Mexican lager was reintroduced in the U.S. as part of a limited release program in 2010 by Simpatico, USA, which is based in Plano, TX. Officially launched in April, it is supported by an integrated marketing campaign that includes on- and off-premise promotional activities. It will be available in select markets in TX, CA, FL and NY.  

The goal of Simpatico USA is to sell 150,000 cases in its first year, 250,000 cases in its second year and 500,000 cases in its third year. “When Simpatico was introduced in 1987 it became one of the fastest-growing import beers in the U.S.,” says J. Michael Bowers, president and CEO of Simpatico USA. “With the continued interest in Mexican imports in the U.S. and the growth of craft beer, we believe returning Simpatico to the U.S. market comes at exactly the right time.”

Simpatico beer is brewed in small batches by Cerveceria Simpatico in Tecate, B.C., Mexico, using premium hops and malt to deliver a distinctive, well-balanced taste and a crisp finish. Simpatico USA, the exclusive importer of Simpatico beer, embraced O-I’s black glass innovation as a way to differentiate its beer from other imports. Simpatico was also able to extend the staple look of the original black-coated bottle using O-I’s premium glass. Not only does the black bottle stand out on the shelf, differentiating Simpatico from other beers, but the black glass also prevents the degradation of the beer caused by light, enhancing its taste and shelf life.

Simpatico also considered consumers’ continued intrigue with new and innovative packaging when developing the package.  “Our partnership with O-I began with a discussion two years ago to develop the first-ever black beer bottle made entirely out of glass, not a coated bottle,” says J. Michael Bowers, president and CEO of Simpatico USA.  “Simpatico in the black bottle is the result of their innovation and quality in packaging.”

According to O-I, it is currently the only glass packaging manufacturer to offer black glass, which is produced by adding an extra ingredient to the amber glass mixture. O-I declined to provide any details about what ingredient they are adding, but one bottle-making expert told PD,  “Overloading the glass with a strong colorant, such as cobalt, will turn the glass black.” He said that 0.5 percent cobalt in the mix would be sufficient. Another expert said that a mixture of iron, chrome and manganese would do the job.

As for the manufacturing process, Doug Trenkamp, manager product innovations at O-I, told PD, “The process is consistent with typical high-volume glass production.” A typical process starts by melting cullet (recycled glass), limestone, soda ash and silica in a furnace at about 2,850 deg F. The molten glass is then cooled and the stream of glass is cut into individual portions, called gobs, that are the weight of the finished bottles. The gobs are then diverted into the molds in the forming machine and air is blown into the mold to form the bottle. Once the containers are formed, they pass through the lehr to be reheated and gradually cooled. This process allows the glass to cool evenly and relieves stresses in the glass. According to one source, the bottles leaving the first lehr are still amber, and O-I puts them through a second lehr to bring out the black color.  O-I manufactures the Simpatico beer bottles at its plant in Brockway, PA. Then, the bottles are shipped to Mexico, where they are filled with the Mexican brew   for export back to the U.S.  

The embossed foil labels for the bottles, which are supplied by The Oak Printing Co., consist of a foil substrate laminated to paper. The labels are printed on an eight-color offset press.

Coca-Cola Zero introduces black glass bottle as part of its Avatar packaging
Last fall, The Coca-Cola Co. partnered with Twentieth Century Fox on a major global promotional campaign for James Cameron’s epic adventure film AVATAR and Coca-Cola Zero.  Activated in more than 30 countries, the partnership centers on bringing consumers access to exclusive and authentic content from the world of AVATAR in a variety of exciting ways. Chip York, worldwide entertainment marketing director, The Coca-Cola Co. says: “AVATAR shares the same aspirational, edgy and unconventional brand values as Coca-Cola Zero. Working so closely with the studio and filmmakers has allowed us to create authentic and exclusive content that provides fans’ unique access into the world, deepening their AVATAR experience.”

As part of this activity, O-I presented Coke with a variety of black glass design concepts, and in partnership with Coke Zero’s global promotions of the movie, O-I developed 8-oz black glass bottles that were featured at a variety of Avatar global movie premieres, including the London premiere on Dec. 10, 2009, as well as the movie’s Los Angeles premiere on Dec. 16, 2009.

The Coke Zero 8-oz black glass bottles were also at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February 2010 and the Shanghai World Expo on March 15, 2010. Black glass Coke Zero bottles will continue to be used at premiere events across the globe, including South Africa’s World Cup this month.

More information is available

O-I, 567/336-5000.
The Oak Printing Co., 800/419-3316.


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