Scottish drink brands praised for having can-do attitude

Image credit: Paula Combs

SCOTLAND’S ‘amazing creativity’ and openness to technology is proving to be the perfect mix when paired with NOMOQ GmbH’s innovative digital printing capabilities, the German company has revealed.

The digital can printing specialist opened its first UK facility last year, with BrewDog being the first customer at the Leamington Spa site, closely followed by Edinburgh-based craft beer company BRULO and high-flying Aberdonian brand Fierce, which has bars in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Manchester.

In early 2023, Ardagh Metal Packaging became a majority shareholder in NOMOQ. In collaboration with the Swiss-headquartered metal can manufacturer, NOMOQ developed the know-how for a digital varnish on beverage cans and for the process of printing the cans for their unique ink adhesion properties. The new technology not only visually enhances the designs, but also protects the cans from being scratched and even allows for them to be pasteurised.

“When we print on the can, the print is the highest quality and it stays on the can,” Dave Rigby, account manager at NOMOQ, told Packaging Scotland, before describing its Hinterkopf printing machinery as the ‘best’ in the market.

Image credit: Matt Madden Photography

The machinery allows for a CMYK system, as opposed to the traditional RGB printing. Dave explained this gives customers access to an ‘infinite’ range of colours as well as photorealism prints and textured finishes including matte, gloss, spot varnish, and metallic.

“People buy with their hands as much as they do with their eyes,” Dave replied, when asked what the benefit of textured packs are. “People love texture. They pick the product up, they feel it, and the more time they’re spending with that product in their hand, the more likely that they’ll buy it.”

Describing the quality of their packaging as a ‘leveller’ for brands breaking into the market, NOMOQ’s technology is able to create a single can with a client’s design and have it with them in a matter of days – hence the name, No Minimum Order Quantity.

“Customers can order exactly the number of cans they want with no wastage,” Dave explained. “In the past, brands would’ve had to go to manufacturers and order the minimum order quantity of say 150,000, when really, they only wanted 50,000. So, the rest of it will end up back in the recycling chain or, God forbid, landfill.”

The minimum order quantity offering hasn’t just been utilised by those breaking into the market, but also by established brewers to keep special-edition cans consistent with packs of their core range.  Another benefit is that it allows brands to have various samples in hand, with NOMOQ’s web portal enabling companies to upload artwork and have it printed on cans in various finishes.

“The idea is that we’re trying to level the playing field and open the doors to creativity and also speed the process up,” Dave said, adding that he worked on a project with London’s Goodness Brewery, which had commissioned an artist for a limited-edition project that sought a textured can with a ‘fun’ and ‘wacky’ design.

“There’s amazing creativity in Scotland,” he added. “London is huge (for the business), but outside of London some of the best interactions have been in Scotland. Edinburgh is massive, and Glasgow is really interesting, and Fierce, in Aberdeen, is one of our biggest customers – they’ve been fantastic.”

Acknowledging the ‘very matter of fact’ way of working in Scotland, Dave said Scottish brands tend to be ‘very direct’ thanks to their understanding of technology and openness to utilising it.

“Fierce came on board really early on. The Fierce cans are great, and we’ve had so many enquiries off the back of seeing their cans. Scotland is a big, big market for us and it’s really exciting and interesting. And it’s not just beer; we’ve had gin and tonic and spirits brands contacting us about mix drinks. I’m really enjoying the work in Scotland.”

Coming from a background of owning his own distillery, Dave said one of the most exciting things is watching brands grow. “It’s great working with the big multinational brands. But it’s also rewarding and satisfying to go on that journey right from day one with smaller brands and watch them grow – and brands do grow very quickly; we’ve had guys coming to us who are buying 1,000 cans, and then the next order is 5,000 cans, then 25,000, and 100,000. It happens very quickly and that’s really satisfying and totally what we’re about as a business.

“We want to be working with people now and still be with them in five years’ time.”