Bottles that just spout off
Packaging will have a speaking role in an increasingly high-tech marketplace.
There’s no need to send a message in a bottle anymore. Soon you can put it on the bottle.
“Everyone likes to see their name in lights,” says Brandon Laidlaw, president and chief operating officer of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Medea vodka, which recently introduced a liquor bottle equipped with an LED message band that can be programmed to scroll any message via a free smartphone app.
Bluetooth technology is changing the way drinkers — and barkeeps — are interacting with their bottles.
This new use of tech means consumers can customize messages on the bottles they are drinking. Distributors and bar owners can also use the technology to track purchases and get sales data. Global drinks company Diageo even is working on smart sensor-equipped bottles that communicate with consumers’ devices once a bottle is opened, perhaps offering recipes or promotions.
The idea is to give packaging a speaking role in an increasingly interactive marketplace.
“Every consumer is walking around with a very powerful computer in their pocket,” says Venky Balakrishnan, global vice president of digital innovation at Diageo.
The new technology isn’t limited to the bottle. Currently available devices include wireless pour spouts such as Smart Spout, from Phoenix-based BarVision, which contains RFID technology and electronic tilt sensors to measure and report on every ounce of liquor poured.
BarVision Chief Executive Joe Nolan expects bottles will only raise their intelligence levels as more producers bring packaging into the “Internet of things,” i.e. appliances or other objects that are able to communicate wirelessly. “We’re excited about the prospects, that’s for sure,” he says.
The Smart Spout can interface with most point-ofsale systems and deliver automated reports to bar owners on things like which hours are heavy, which brands are being called for and whether pours are “heavy” or “light,” says Nolan.
The initial Medea vodka LED label band was manually programmable; you pushed buttons to key in letters. The second-generation bottle, expected to launch in June, can be programmed from a wireless device. The app can immediately detect which bottles are in the vicinity so users don’t have to search bar racks.
The vodka inside Medea bottles is imported from Holland and has won awards for taste as well as packaging, says Laidlaw. Initially released in limited distribution in 2010, Medea was relaunched in August 2014 and has sold about 25,000 cases throughout the world.
A 750-milliliter bottle costs about $30, and the Bluetooth LED band will last for about 50 hours. Once consumers are done with the bottle, the band can be peeled off for disposal at a battery disposal/recycling facility and the glass bottle can be recycled as usual. The next step is working on an LED band label that can communicate in other languages.
At Diageo, the “smart bottle” was showcased at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March, using Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The bottles aren’t yet on the market, and officials aren’t ready to give a release date since the technology still is being worked on.