The Four-Pack is the New Six-Pack
If you’ve taken a walk down the beer aisle recently, you may have noticed a packaging changeup—four-packs of cans rather than the customary six-pack. All throughout our grocery stores, there seems to be a downsizing trend— less potato chips and more air in our chip bags (also known as slack-fill), laundry detergent bottles seem to be getting smaller, and even the chocolate bars in the checkout line are shedding some ounces. Although an argument could be made for malicious intent turning our six-packs into four-packs, there is actually good reasoning behind the packaging shift.
When did the trend start?
Most four-pack cans are craft beer—you can still get Budweiser or Miller in a six-pack. But the rise of local breweries and their need for distinction may have prompted the four-pack trend. “Some trace the four-pack’s rise to 2013, when craft beer fanatics were lining up outside Vermont brewery The Alchemist to buy its Heady Topper IPA, one of the first beers sold in 16-ounce four-packs.” It was an easy train to jump on, and most of the craft breweries did.
Why did it start trending?
Three factors are behind the trend: differentiation, cans, and sampling.
Differentiation: Small brewers need to differentiate themselves from the popular six-pack of mainstream competitors. Catching the consumer’s eye on a shelf full of known and trusted brands like Budweiser, Miller, and Coors is no easy task. Craft brewers needed something disruptive—something that would stand out. And the four-pack does just that.
Can vs. Bottle: It isn’t just popular brands vying for attention—craft breweries are everywhere these days which means there’s a lot of competition from other craft brewers. On a glass bottle, you are pretty much limited to printing on the label. Cans utilize the entire can, opening the door for more eye-catching designs than bottles. Another win for cans is their practicality. They’re easy to carry around without worrying about dropping one and breaking it. Cans also shield the liquid from light more efficiently than glass and the problem of oxygen seeping through the cap on a glass bottle is eliminated.
Sampling: The lower amount of cans allows for more “sampling.” Craft brewers like being known for their own distinct flavors—meaning you don’t always know what you are going to get with a craft beer. It seems easier to commit (mentally) to a four-pack rather than a six-pack of traditional beer where you know exactly what it will taste like. In other words, someone who has never tried a specific craft beer will be more likely to buy a four-pack to test it out and see if they like it.
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