O-I brings digital printing to glass bottles

Quietly developing an ambitious plan for direct digital print on glass bottles is Owens-Illinois Europe, and the firm described its O-I: Expressions program at Digital Print for Packaging US 2019.

Direct digital printing on glass bottles differentiates this Wither Hills brand of wine.
Direct digital printing on glass bottles differentiates this Wither Hills brand of wine.

“Packaging is the ideal vehicle for personalization, and personalized packaging is a growing trend,” said Melianthe Leeman, Global Innovation Platform Leader for O-I, at the June 4-5 conference, which was produced by Smithers Pira. She outlined four key deliverables that digital printing brings: unique brand building, speed to market, sustainability, and flexibility. As an example of how flexibility can come in handy, Leeman suggested the audience imagine how grateful a craft brewer might be if, at the last minute, the Alcohol By Volume percentage turns out to be different than originally planned. If that brewer had purchased labels for its glass bottles, those labels would have to be discarded because of the inaccurate ABV percentage . Not so with digitally printed glass bottles. The digital printing technology deployed by O-I also lets brand owners design unique tactile effects into their bottles, so differentiation becomes another tool in their marketing toolbox.

Leeman said that the technology provider selected by O-I is the German OEM Till, which is now owned by Krones. That firm has combined its direct digital print technologies under the Dekron banner. Leeman also indicated that while the early development work on O-I’s digital printing program, including equipment installation, has taken place in France, plans are underway to install a system somewhere in California.

Among the early adopters of O-I’s new digital capability is Lion-New Zealand, which has deployed a personalized bottle for on-premise sales of its Wither Hills brand wine. “We had a specific business problem to address when we approached O-I,” says Dave Campbell, Marketing Manager at the winery. “We needed a modern premium way to take our Wither Hills wine from the keg to the table. We’d previously been using a nonbranded, off-the-shelf carafe, but we realized it wasn’t the 1980s anymore and it was time for a change.”

With bottles just now hitting restaurant venues, Campbell says he’ll be evaluating the potential for scaling up to more venues throughout New Zealand.