Anheuser-Busch is releasing a new can for Budweiser.

It’s modeled after their bowtie logo. In a tricky bit of manufacturing, the aluminum has been bent 10 degrees. And clever typographical work exaggerates the effect.

Remarkably, despite holding a bit less beer, the whole package will cost the company more to produce than a typical can of Bud.

That’s because it uses twice as much aluminum--a pricey concession to the design that has a better, heavier hand feel.

The cans will be sold in a new 8-pack, and the design could come to dominate SKUs in the future, should it have a good reception.

Though I will admit, I’m still a bit partial to their vintage packaging.

Though I will admit, I’m still a bit partial to their vintage packaging.

Though I will admit, I’m still a bit partial to their vintage packaging.

Co.Design

Can Bud's New Beer Can Become An Icon Like The Coke Bottle?

Taking a page from Coca Cola, Budweiser has debuted a bow tie metal can that could become the company’s new standard.

Fifteen years ago, Dean launched the “chug” bottle, a plastic reimagining of the traditional milk carton. They spent millions on its advertising, but the gamble paid off. Sales jumped ~65% in a year. And Dean milk became differentiated from any plain old milk on the shelf.

Structural branding, or identity by shape alone, is one of the brass rings of consumer product design. And now Budweiser is making a run at a Dean or Coca Cola bottle of its own. Bud’s announced a bow-tie can, an aluminum container that crinkles by just 10 degrees in the middle, to marry its can shape with its existing bow-tie logo.

“Honestly, our brand needs more design to it. We have brown bottles and aluminum cans,” Pat McGauley, VP of Innovation at Anheuser-Busch confesses to Co.Design. “Obviously, Coca Cola built their iconic shape over many many years. We’ve had this bow-tie icon, but we haven’t been able to shape the aluminum until now. It’s quite an opportunity for the Budweiser brand.”

It’s quite an opportunity at quite an expense. Many have speculated that Budweiser is just pulling a fast one on us all, as this new 11.3-ounce can actually holds .7 ounces less than the typical 12-ounce can. But truth be told, the new can uses twice the aluminum than your standard can, which we’re told is more than enough to “far offset” any savings from the beer. Plus, Budweiser will be selling the bow ties in a unique, eight-can SKU that, ounce per ounce, will be priced in near-parallel with your 12-ounce sixers and 12 packs. So even though unit costs have gone up, sale price per ounce of beer will remain consistent.

The can itself has been in development since 2010, driven by a manufacturing breakthrough by Belvac. Given the structural tolerances of aluminum, the design process was a back and forth between design idealism and mass-produced feasibility.

"I think, like every invention and innovation, we had a lot of trials and tribulations. It was splitting and not shaping properly,” McGauley explains. “So it does have twice the aluminum in it, but we like that a lot. It feels sturdy and high quality. And the shape of the bow tie fits nicely in your hand.

Which just goes to show, Anheuser-Busch anticipates big, long-term gains out of differentiating Budweiser packaging. Because if consumers respond well to the new cans, we’re told that they could “absolutely” become the new brand standard.

Look for the new cans starting May 6. Because, c’mon, guys, your hipster-slumming-it PBR tastes no better.

Read more here.

[Hat tip: Core77]

Add New Comment

25 Comments

  • TacomAroma

    No fancy design tweaks will save Budweiser from the
    onslaught of competition coming from the microbreweries.

  • Caleb Winters

    I think this is great. It fits well with their brand, and does a lot to foster instant recognition of the product. Not sure why there's so much vehemence in this thread. Lots of single-use products have custom packaging that is just as "wasteful" as this design. Whatever. Props to the Budweiser folks for taking a risk, hope it pays off. 

  • Whspecialist

    I don't see the can changing anything.  If you're a Bud drinker, you're already going to buy the product.  And if you're not a Bud drinker, why would a differently-shaped can change your choices?

  • Jakob

    My thoughts exactly, how can you justify this waste by saying its "sturdy &  high quality" ? When considering quality, the product in its larger context should be part of the assesment.

  • Marc Schenker

    It looks like an accident, you idiot. The hard line looks out of control and breaks into the logo type. My God, who does the judging in your house of monkeys? That logo treatment is worse than American Airlines latest. Design really is dead, isn't it? Thank God I experienced some of it in the eighties and nineties. Heading in the direction of Coca-Cola? Please do something else for a living, Wilson.

  • ADC

    All he did was write the article. He literally did not give one personal comment on it, positive or negative. Chill out, Schenker.

  • artdrectr

    Total novelty. Once consumers find out this design requires 2x the aluminum necessary and contains less beverage than a typical can, sales will drop off quickly. 
    It's a fun idea, I praise the designers, but not the decision-makers.

  • monirom

    I'm betting sales go down not up - since the design does nothing to improve the taste nor enhance the product. Also did they do any market testing? Most guys are not going to take a shine to a bowtie can. Guys who drink beer, drink it for the product not for the packaging.

  • Odin

    This exactly the opposite of what Dieter Ram would consider 'sustainable' design. Brands are not fancy wrappers whose identity is a play toy for consumers. This may attract the middle-American demographic for the short-term, but it will surely fail in the long term. Ultimately it's what is in the can that matters and mass produced, low-quality beer is still just that, despite the can and the wink at hipsterism.

  • Claire

    but at the end of the day - the new can and graphics are just plain ugly. so no, i do not see this becoming an icon.

  • dp

    If you think about Budweiser's core demographic and how many of them wear bow ties, this seems like a match made in heaven.

  • Neil Giles

    Twice as much aluminium per can? What a waste to have a can with a waist! Pointless, pointless, pointless. I look forward to the new-look cans screwed up and tossed onto a pavement near me.

  • Bill Gates

    It is a huge shame to see big companies like this focusing on silly wasteful changes like this instead of meaningful changes. Earth Day is an ironic time to run a story about a company making more wasteful packaging.

    If Budweiser wants more design, maybe they should focus on graphics that don't suck.