In 2017, in a “history-making pairing,” according to Chicago-based sprits company Beam Suntory, it became the Official Spirits Partner of 2016 World Series champions the Chicago Cubs, with Beam Suntory’s Effen Vodka named the Official Vodka of Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs.
Said Beam Suntory CEO Matt Shattock at the time of the announcement, “This dynamic partnership underscores our focus on the City of Chicago, our company’s new hometown [since 2016], and our broader efforts to be where our consumers work and play. After a truly historic World Series, we’re thrilled to be the Official Spirits Sponsor of the 2016 World Series Champions and can’t wait to make history with Cubs fans for years to come.”
To celebrate the news, the spirits maker turned to promotional product development company Supremia International—a partner since Suntory’s purchase of Jim Beam in 2014—to help create a limited-edition co-branded package for Effen. An ultra-premium vodka, Effen is known for its slim, sophisticated clear-glass bottle and unique vinyl sleeve label.
“The team thought it would be an excellent way to commemorate the iconic partnership between the Cubs and Effen Vodka, by customizing and offering a limited-edition bottle with a co-branded Cubs sleeve,” explains Jessica Warwick, Vice President of Sales at Supremia.
In fall 2017, Beam Suntory released the package with custom label to Chicago and surrounding markets. The bottle met with such great response that a second iteration was released in April 2018, just in time for the Cubs’ home opener.
Company adds unique packaging elements
Supremia International – The Premiums Company was founded in 1981 in London and now has offices across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In early 2018, the company relocated its U.S. site from Plainsboro to Lawrenceville, NJ, to a new 10,000-sq-ft facility.
Supremia describes itself as a “one-stop shop for promotional marketing and packaging solutions,” specializing in the food and beverage—premium spirits and beer, in particular—and health and beauty sectors. Its capabilities range from premiums, gift with purchase, primary and secondary packaging, value-added packaging (VAP), and custom projects, such as custom labels, caps, and bottle embellishments. Explains Warwick, “Supremia has accrued a comprehensive suite of services that includes design, printing, account management, sourcing, quality assurance, logistics, and final delivery of a wide range of luxury merchandise for renowned, global brands.”
One of Supremia’s strengths is its focus on design and innovation. Its new facility includes a 2,500-sq-ft design center with a high-resolution photo studio and a comprehensive swatch library of papers, plastics, and fabrics as well as various inks and coatings.
Adjacent to the site’s day-to-day workspace, a 2,500-sq-ft warehouse facility features two docks that allow for small drop shipments, reworks, and pick-and-pack jobs. Supremia’s co-packing services are largely manual, however a recent investment in ADCO automatic carton erecting and sealing equipment has allowed the company to automate these processes for gift-pack assembly. For example, a spirits bottle with a premium might be hand-loaded into a thermoform, which would then be manually inserted into the ADCO-erected carton and sealed. According to Warwick, Supremia has been able to reduce the time it takes to pack products such as these by 40%-plus through this automated system.
Supremia does not have printing capabilities in-house; it partners with outside paperboard and package printing suppliers. For “for ultra-luxe” packaging, the company sources the printing overseas, with the jobs managed through its offices in Hong Kong and China. It also partners with a large range of manufacturers to procure the specialized promotional components it uses for its customers’ projects.
“We have a passion for bringing the right products to life,” says Warwick. “Our mantra is to ‘Be the Solution.’ That’s really what drives our love of what we do and what we work on at Supremia. We bring together the right blend of people, services, and solutions to formulate the perfect customer connection.”
A label fitting for World Series winners
When it first partnered with Supremia in 2014, Beam Suntory used the company primarily for its value-added packaging services. In 2016, the two worked together on a two-bottle gift pack of Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46 bourbon whisky. Through a creative use of paper and printing, Supremia created a gift box with an insert that replicated the look of wood, as well as a paper-strip stamp and wax seal that also looked like the real thing—without the cost.
“Our relationship then evolved past just VAP packaging to LTO packs [limited-time offers], from retail packs to primary packaging componentry, like custom bottle labels, sleeves, medallions, and other bottle décor, to enhance the primary packs further,” says Warwick. Examples of its work for Beam Suntory include medallions for Booker’s Bourbon, an Effen bottle featuring rapper 50 Cent, and a variety of ribbons, rope cords, and other bottle decorators for its spirits’ brands.
For the Effen Cubs’ bottle, Supremia was tasked with coming up with a material that would closely resemble the vodka bottle’s original vinyl sleeve label, would be fully customizable in terms of color and design, and would function like the standard sleeve. As Warwick recounts, the project began when Beam Suntory sent some key creative assets to Supremia to help them explore the design for the sleeve. From there, Beam Suntory picked a concept from among a number of ideas presented by Supremia.
“We worked with a manufacturer overseas on exploring polyurethane materials that were existing in the market to see if we could get the smoothness of the silicone sleeve, but also some elasticity to the material to help when applying the sleeves to the bottle,” explains Warwick. “The bottle itself was the custom Effen bottle, so we were able to use that to customize the thickness of the material, so when the limited-edition sleeve was applied, it would have the look and feel of the everyday sleeve.”
The PU sleeve is printed in three colors, per the Cubs’ standard brand guidelines and is designed to fit within an indented area around the bottle, which allows it to sit flush with the package. The sleeve labels are supplied to Beam Suntory for application.
According to Warwick, the combination of Beam Suntory’s design expertise with its primary packaging and Supremia’s ability to design custom promotional items has brought Beam Suntory’s projects, such as the Effen Cubs’ bottle to a new level. “Beam Suntory as an organization has been great at developing some key elements to their primary packaging that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but they add an element of design that you don’t see with their competitors. When you are that inventive and innovative, you have to create your own materials, specs, and supply chain,” she says. “These elements that we produce for Beam are beyond existing suppliers’ manufacturing capabilities, turnaround times, or pricing structure. We love engaging in these projects, because it’s a true test of our ability to bring the right products to life, while making the process simple and easy for our clients.”