Old Fashioned, Caipirinha, Margarita, Elderflower Sour, cocktails these days can be a whirlwind of names and ingredients that you may have never seen on a drink list before. Google search “popular craft cocktails” and you’ll get a plethora of results from websites touting the newest, most popular cocktails you can order at a bar near you. The demand for craft spirits is on the rise, and there’s no denying the increase in popularity for unique cocktails.
According to ResearchandMarket.com, the U.S. craft spirits market is expected to reach a revenue of more than $20 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of over 32% during 2018-2023.* The shift in demographic is worth noting too, as a younger audience is drinking these libations, thus shifting the demand for a taste of a craft cocktail with unique flavorings. Gone are the days of rum and cokes. We’re in a time where Mescal, ginger, sugar, egg whites, mole bitters, and fresh squeezed lime over a hand-carved ice cube is the drink of choice.
With this growth in demand for unique ingredients, comes an increase in the number of craft distilleries in the U.S. According to the American Craft Spirits Association, the number of active craft distillers grew by 15.5% from 2017 to 2018 to reach 1,835 distilleries in August 2018.
These small distilleries operate much differently than the big-name distilleries such as Diageo, Sazerac, and the like. Production, marketing, packaging, and other aspects of operations have challenges of their own when producing liquor at a smaller scale. For instance, there are federal and state regulations small distilleries must adhere to, such as licensing requirements and federal approval of new formulas. Craft distilleries, while not producing a high volume of product, often do small batch runs, requiring their packaging line to be customized to fill and cap bottles at appropriate speeds. Additionally, many craft distilleries have a “show line,” meaning the general public can visit and take a tour of the production facility, particularly common in distilleries that have a restaurant or a hotel attached to the production site. This requires the facility to be visually appealing, safe, and sanitary for visitors. Because craft distilleries are in competition with a number of other smaller companies, the end product must stand out on the shelf next to competitors. And, since many craft distilleries are considered “start-ups,” meaning they are new to the spirits industry, production must be economical and have a smaller footprint than the larger competitors who have a large amount of square footage for production.
The unique challenges of the packaging line at craft distilleries is worth expanding on, as well as the solutions that exist to solve these challenges. A large production facility of spirits with big name labels such as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels would not only need a large space to make the product, but also would require a robust line specific for filling their product into bottles. These large companies require fillers, as well as cappers, labelers, and the complete packaging line to run at a fast pace, some as fast as filling 900 bottles per minute (bpm). In contrast, the packaging line at a craft distillery fills at a slower pace, in most cases about 10-20 bpm. This smaller operation still requires efficiency and machines to be economical.
ProMach is well recognized in the filling and capping industry for working with big name distilleries, ones whose lines are moving at the aforementioned fast paces to meet the demands of the consumers. However, ProMach engineers took notice at the needs of small distilleries and developed solutions tailored to these smaller outfits. In meeting with small production facilities across the U.S., ProMach recognized that smaller distilleries required a packaging line that is customized to their individual production goals.
To support these small businesses and to meet the unique challenges of these facilities, ProMach created a filling system called Proof Perfect™. Because ProMach and a handful of product brands have extensive experience in the filling and capping industry across a wide variety of beverage sectors, the design of a filling system specific for the craft spirits industry was a no-brainer. Two particular product brands, Zalkin, who has been providing high performance capping technology to customers for over 80 years, and Federal, who has been in the filling and capping industry for over 65 years, came together to form Proof Perfect™ to meet the challenges of the craft spirit industry. The two product brands carefully designed their filling and capping machines to create one filling system flexible enough for a small distillery to use at custom speeds.
Proof Perfect™ has proven successful in the spirits industry, having many installations in small distilleries across the country. The distilleries’ challenges are met with one physical and economical solution. For instance, because the machine design of Proof Perfect combines multiple systems into one monobloc or tri-bloc, the filling and capping operation runs efficiently together while saving floor space. All aspects of the system are customizable, for example the filling rate at one small distillery in Kentucky runs at 10 bpm’s and can be increased when different times of year require higher production. The machines feature a dry-floor design, meaning there is no leakage when filling bottles, so customers can host tours to the general public without the worry of uncleanliness. The capping capabilities are also customized to what the distillery is closing the bottle with, whether it be a cork or twist-off. Streamlining this portion of the packaging line is ideal for startup distilleries that may not have the space to build a robust line but still require a machine to fill and cap multiple bottles per minute, focusing on perfecting taste and building their brand.
Meeting the demands of a start up with a smaller packaging line is important as local distilleries continue to pop up across the U.S. Custom solutions built for specific production rates are crucial for growth, and small distilleries will have access to packaging capabilities with plenty of room to grow.