According to Beverage Industry’s Best Packages of 2014 survey, portion-controlled sizes, specialty inks and a “personal” touch can give brands a leg up in the competitive beverage marketplace.

The Beverage Industry editors examined the myriad new products and package redesigns that were released in 2014 and narrowed down the list to our Top 10. These packages were then put to a reader vote on At the end of the voting period, you — the readers — selected the following Top 5 packages to win the title of the Best Packages of 2014.

Cascade Ice’s can-sized bottles

Unique Beverage Co. LLC’s new Cascade Ice package topped the list with 27 percent of the vote, making it the Best Package of 2014.

In recognition of consumers’ growing desire for smaller portion sizes, the Everett, Wash.-based company decided to release its five most-popular flavors — Lemonade, Coconut, Black Raspberry, Orange Mango and Pink Grapefruit — in slim 7-ounce bottles, in addition to the brand’s 17.2-ounce bottles, says Mike Broadwell, president and chief executive officer of Unique Beverage Co. The bottles also were designed to be the same height as an average can of soda, which opens up the brand to distribution opportunities in vending machines and in airline beverage carts, he says.

The portion-controlled serving size also provides the brand with access to the school channel, where portion-controlled and zero-calorie alternative beverages are more welcome than sugary drinks, Broadwell explains. “Parents tell us how excited they are that this bottle fits perfectly into their kids’ lunches, whereas our 17.2-ounce bottle was too tall,” he explains.

Cascade Ice’s 7-ounce bottles became available in Albertsons stores in Oregon and Washington state in September, and the brand expects availability to increase quickly as it continues to introduce the package to its distribution partners across the country, Broadwell says.

Griffin Claw’s glow-in-the-dark can

Coming in second place was Griffin Claw Brewing Co.’s glow-in-the-dark Screamin’-Pumpkin Ale can with 24 percent of the vote.

Following the successful launch of the Birmingham, Mich.-based craft brewer’s spiced pumpkin ale on draft last year, the company decided to release the seasonal brew in cans this fall. “The beer [now] comes in the best possible vehicle for consumption, which is a 16-ounce can,” says Griffin Claw Brewing spokesman Scott LePage. He notes that light and air are the biggest factors affecting beer quality, and cans block out both to preserve the beer.

As a nod to the beer on tap, Griffin Claw used Griffin Claw Master Brewer Dan Rogers’ original look from its draft launch for Screamin’-Pumpkin Ale as inspiration for the can design. The package features an open-mouthed pumpkin against a backdrop of a full moon, a bare tree and a farmhouse to complement the craft beer’s fall setting.

However, with the Halloween timing of this package’s availability, the brewer decided to add a special element to the can design: glow-in-the-dark ink. Griffin Claw Brewing worked with Chicago-based Rexam Beverage Can Americas to source glow-in-the-dark inks to create a glow-in-the-dark beer can to enhance certain design elements, LePage says. The pumpkin’s mouth as well as the text on the can glow in the dark, he describes.

Griffin Claw Brewing launched its glow-in-the-dark cans in August through Powers Distributing Co., Orion Township, Mich. The distributor reported an initial batch of 2,500 cases available, with the expectation of distributing up to 7,000 cases throughout Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan by the end of the season. The package was available throughout Michigan while supplies lasted, LePage says. 

Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar mini cans

Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo Inc.’s Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar mini cans took the third-place spot with 18 percent of the vote. Although the 7.5-ounce can size is not new to the Pepsi portfolio, it is new to the company’s Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar brand.

“We’ve been on a journey to transform our beverage portfolio for 20 years now, and mini cans are part of our larger strategy,” says Aidan Kingerlee, director of innovation for Pepsi. “U.S. consumers are paying more attention to the calories they consume, and we believe in giving consumers a portfolio of options — from products to packaging innovations — to make the choice that’s right for them. We launched the mini can in 2011 and introduced Real Sugar mini cans this year as a fun little treat to complement smaller snacks and meals.

“The mini cans allow the consumer a really refreshing Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar but in a portion that is only 90 calories, relative to the standard 150 calories in the traditional 12-ounce can,” he continues. “Consumers find mini cans appealing because they help enable portion control by offering the perfect size and just the right amount to satisfy. Real Sugar mini cans are a great example of consumers gravitating toward a portion-controlled size of refreshing, full-calorie products.”

Prior to the launch of Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar mini cans in June, Pepsi created a 60-second commercial titled “Mini Hollywood” for the Academy Awards broadcast on March 2. The creative celebrated the mini can format as well as some of “the best mini moments in cinema and the impact they have made on pop culture,” according to the company’s Feb. 27 press release. In the commercial, various people on a movie set interact with the mini can while repeating popular movie lines, such as “I’ll have what she’s having,” from “When Harry Met Sally” and “Say hello to my little friend,” from “Scarface.” 1996 Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. also switched up his famous line from “Jerry Maguire,” declaring, “Show me the [mini],” as he requests a mini can of Pepsi.

Pepsi released Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar along with two limited-time products, Pepsi Vanilla Made With Real Sugar and Pepsi Wild Cherry Made With Real Sugar, as part of its “Real. Big. Summer.” promotion. Although the flavored products are no longer available, Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar is a permanent addition to the Pepsi-Cola portfolio and is available nationwide.

Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ bottles

Taking the fourth-place spot were Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co.’s “Share a Coke” packages with 10 percent of the reader vote.

To encourage consumers to share a Coke with a friend or a person with whom they would like to become better acquainted this past summer, the brand replaced its logos on 20-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero with the 250 most popular names among U.S. teens and millennials. To also include people with names not among the Top 250, 12-ounce cans featured colloquial nicknames like “BFF,” “Star,” “Bestie,” “Legend,” “Grillmaster,” “Buddy” and “Wingman,” and 1.25- and 2-liter bottles featured group names like “Family” and “Friends.”

In addition, The Coca-Cola Co. took the “Share a Coke” campaign on a tour of more than 500 stops across the nation. At the tour stops, consumers who were unable to find specific names on store shelves could customize 7.5-ounce Coca-Cola mini cans for themselves and a second can for someone special.

“Coca-Cola has been bringing people together for 128 years to create moments of happiness, which can define our lives,” says Lauren Thompson, director of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola North America. “They can be grand or intimate, shared or personal, fleeting or even unassuming at times. The thinking behind ‘Share a Coke’ was to create occasions between people during the summer when they could simply enjoy the moment and open a little extra happiness by sharing a Coke together.”

Thompson says The Coca-Cola Co. chose this design element to acknowledge the importance of a person’s name. “It’s our fingerprint, our identity, in one word,” she says. “The campaign capitalized on the global trend of self-expression and sharing by personalizing the sharing experience. Your name on a Coke bottle — it doesn’t get more personal than that.”

The Coca-Cola Co.’s move to get personal also got consumers talking. A representative of The Coca-Cola Co. confirmed that as of mid-August, the company tracked more than 351,000 Instagram images globally and more than 200,000 posts across all social platforms in response to the campaign. In addition, the “Share a Coke” website had received more than 4.85 million visits, and nearly 811,000 virtual bottles had been shared at that time, according to the representative.  

The Coca-Cola Co.’s “Share a Coke” packages were available nationwide through August. The company plans to expand the campaign next year by adding more millennial names to the mix.

Miller Lite Original Lite Can

Rounding out the Top 5 Best Packages of 2014 is Chicago-based MillerCoors LLC’s Miller Lite Original Lite Can with 9 percent of the vote.

On Jan. 1, the beer brand released its Original Lite Can as a limited-edition packaging offering with a three-month run tied into the late 2013 premiere of “Anchorman 2.” In the movie, which takes place in the 1980s, the news team cast enjoys Miller Lite from the Original Lite Can.

However, when the brand saw increased sales following the launch of the packaging, Miller Lite decided to make the design change permanent and even extended the design to its bottles and tap handles, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in a Sept. 2 article.

Breaking from the brand’s recent blue design, the Miller Lite Original Lite Can harkens back to the brand’s 40-year-old can design and features a white color scheme, images of hops and barley, and the words “A fine pilsner beer,” reinforcing the beer’s high-quality ingredients and unique brewing process, the company says.

“There was a time when all that existed was heavy beer that weighed you down,” said Elina Vives, marketing director for Miller Lite, in a statement. “The launch of Miller Lite broke this category convention and offered beer drinkers the best of both worlds: great taste at only 96 calories and 3.2 carbs. Miller Lite is the original light beer, and this … can celebrates that innovation and helps inform consumers of the rich history behind our beer.”

Miller Lite’s Original Lite Can is available nationwide in 12-, 16- and 24-ounce sizes.

Honorable mentions

Although portion control, specialty inks and a “personal” touch were fan favorites among the Top 5, voters also recognized sustainability and mixology when it came to the honorable mentions. Ranking sixth among Beverage Industry’s Best Packages of 2014 is Truett-Hurst Inc.’s PaperBoy wine bottle with 7 percent of the vote. The Healdsburg, Calif.-based wine company crafted the 750-ml paper wine bottle from a molded outer shell, made from recycled cardboard with a thin plastic liner, in the shape of a wine bottle. Like any other bottle, the PaperBoy wine bottle protects the wine from outside elements and can be merchandised on store shelves and in wine racks. It also has the ability to withstand environments like cold boxes or ice buckets for a significant amount of time, according to Truett-Hurst representative Lee Hodo. Furthermore, the bottle allows consumers to take the wine into venues where glass generally is not welcome, he adds. In addition, the entire package is 85 percent lighter than a glass bottle and is easily recyclable, the company says.

Bud Light Lime’s Mix-A-Rita mixed pack landed in seventh place with 2 percent of the vote. The brand of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch released the variety pack in March to give consumers variety and refreshing, convenient cocktail-inspired solutions, according to Mallika Monteiro, director of marketing for Bud Light extensions. “The Mix-A-Rita variety pack — featuring the four core Ritas flavors [Mang-O-Rita, Raz-Ber-Rita, Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita] — was created to highlight the various Ritas flavor offerings and encourage mixology between the different Ritas flavors, as well as with outside ingredients such as club soda, fruits and even muddled jalapeño.”

Rounding out the Top 10 was a three-way tie among the Smirnoff White bottle, Purple Passion’s retro-inspired packaging, and the Mionetto Luxury Collection, which each garnered 1 percent of the vote.

Smirnoff, a brand of London-based Diageo plc, released its Smirnoff White bottle exclusively in airports around the globe. The vodka’s crisp, white bottle features a clear cut-glass base that blends into a smooth, white finish toward the neck of the bottle where the Smirnoff White label is included with an etched-in-ice look. In addition, the bottle’s color and shape represent the crystalline formations found in pure arctic ice and highlights the vodka’s quality, the company says.

The design for Purple Passion, a brand of St. Louis-based Luxco Inc., harkens back to a product created by college students in the 1980s and later commercialized in 1986 by Luxco, then known as David Sherman Corp., according to the company’s website. The company relaunched the product this year in retro-inspired bottles that pay homage to the brand’s beginnings. The packaging also includes Everclear branding to highlight the correlation between Purple Passion and the well-known spirit brand.

 Mionetto USA, White Plains, N.Y., released the Mionetto Luxury Collection of sparkling wines this year to create a stronger, more unified brand identity and heighten shelf appeal for its elite wines, the company says. The collection features custom-molded bottles adorned with embossed neck capsules and updated labeling.