Creating shelf appeal for beverage cans

As the canned beverage space gets more crowded and competitive with new launches from RTD cocktails to coffee, it’s becoming even more important for metal packaging to be distinctive for a product to stand out on the shelves of retailers. Increasing beverage categories are spurring new and creative options in metal decorating and special effect inks technologies to build brand awareness, enhance shelf appeal and get into consumers’ shopping bags.  

Renee Schouten, vice president of marketing at INX International, and Alex Folloso, director of metal decorating technology at INX, share their thoughts on generating that all-important shelf appeal with high-quality can designs.

The importance of shelf appeal for cans has increased sharply over the past few years. What are the most prevailing factors influencing this trend? 

RS: Brand owners typically dictate the ever-changing trends used on cans to help what makes their brand jump off the shelf. Maintaining brand colour quality and consistency is key to ensuring shelf appeal.

The INX Color Perfection team keeps a close watch on industry trends that impact shelf appeal. We’re seeing slightly more activity with retort-ability (coffee products) and RTD cocktails. Canned liquor products that are new to the market need to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace. Sustainability and circular economy efforts have led the way for brands owners switching to metal, so the importance of shelf appeal continues to increase. They want their products to stand out among all the options available to consumers.

How is INX contributing to supporting the circular economy and sustainability-related drivers with its metal decorating inks and coatings?

RS: We’re keenly aware of the impact metal decorating products can have on brand marketability, consumer safety and the environment throughout its lifecycle.

That said, our product development efforts focus on material health and safety, product functionality for environmental impact, and consumer safety with a mind for recycle-ready products. AP EcoCan ink was formulated specifically with sustainability in mind. It’s the industry’s first and only eco-friendly metal decorating ink to receive a Gold level Material Health Certificate from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA).

AF: Our R&D and EHS teams also keep pace with the always changing regulatory landscape. Their participation in trade groups like the Can Manufacturers Institute allows us to support the most recyclable metal can package.

INX is one of the leading companies when it comes to speciality inks. Which ones are most sought after and why?

Tactile effects have been used by energy drink producer Monster to heighten the look of its products.

AF: Tactile effects is our most popular speciality ink, followed by retortable inks. Effects like tactile help brands differentiate their products. The retort process, also known as sterilisation, heats the can to around 118C at 15psi pressure to eliminate microorganisms and provide safe liquid food products. Retort ink activity is increasing as brands move their beverages to cans from other packaging types or as new products emerge.

Aside from the inks discussed in Benefits of Special Effect and Functional Inks | INX Printer Space (, are there any new technologies INX is working on, and can that information be shared with The Metal Packager?

AF: As technologies within the can making process evolve and manufacturing processes improve, INX R&D is constantly reviewing options to provide the market.

Is there an increasing pressure to innovate due to the advent of technologies like digital printing?

RS: Yes, we’ve seen digital printing become more and more present in metal – and rigid packaging in particular – the last few years and I anticipate this will only increase.

AF: INX has had a presence in this market for a number of years, with various digital printing technologies like the CP800 UV digital cylindrical printer. We continue to dedicate R&D resources specifically for the evolving digital technologies in the metal decorating industry, particularly in regard to ink formulation. We’ve also seen traditional equipment manufacturers introduce digital printing machinery in the last few years. I believe these technologies will evolve with quicker production speeds, creating more opportunities for short runs and customisation in the metal decorating industry.

What are the main challenges for the speciality inks market? Is it cost, legislation, supply chain, etc.?

AF: The key challenge to formulating speciality inks is the can making process and finished can quality, which dictates the technology INX provides. For example, in dry offset printing the ink film thickness on metal cans is around one micrometre. Therefore, there are limitations on pigment particle size. To put this in perspective, the diameter of human hair is 180 micrometres and a red blood cell is 7.5 micrometres thick. If particle size is excessive, the printer will have runnability issues with the ink. There are also heat resistance and light fastness properties to consider when formulating a speciality ink.

*This article was provided with thanks by INX International Ink Co. For more information, visit:

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