Glassware is a much-overlooked feature within the trade and is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool. Ben McFarland finds out more.
In Belgium, the perennial standard bearer of the beer world, the glasses in which the brews are served are as distinctive as the liquid inside.
Ranging from gregarious goblets to fancy flutes, glassware is considered an integral part of the pomp and ceremony that characterises the Belgian beer experience and each brand has its own individual glass into which it is poured.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for British pubs and bars where a traditional pint pot culture remains prevalent and where branded glassware is the exception rather than the rule.
However, brewers are recognising the impact that sophisticated and branded glassware can have on sales, as well as what they call "the drinking experience".
Interbrew UK has installed Stella Artois branded glassware in 8,000 UK pubs and that number is set to rise to 12,000 by the end of the year as part of the brand's quality programme.
"We see serving Stella in a branded glass as an integral part of the brand's School of Excellence," said Allan Tudor, sales director at Interbrew UK. "The glassware has increased the rate of sale with an average uplift of 9.7 per cent year on year."
According to research by Interbrew, 50 per cent of consumers prefer beer to be served in a branded glass and 37 per cent are prepared to pay more for it.
The success of Interbrew's other Belgian imports, Hoegaarden and Leffe, has been widely attributed to their distinctive glassware. The heavy, hexagonal Hoegaarden glass quickly became synonymous with the brand and, in its early days, was a much sought-after trophy for light-fingered drinkers.
The cost of disappearing glasses is the most common complaint among licensees when it comes to new branded designs, but Allan regards it as a short-term concern. "Because the glasses are so attractive, the reality is a few are going to walk - but when you look at the long term effect on a pub's sales it's definitely worth it.
The growing trend among venue operators to keep the bar free of garish fonts and branded promotional material means glassware is becoming an increasingly important vehicle for getting the brand message across.
Charles Glassware, purveyor of bespoke glasses to the pub trade, has seen a significant rise in interest from brand owners and the company has produced bespoke products for Coors Brewers, Carlsberg, Fuller's, Bulmers and Matthew Clark.
Sales manager Carl Andrews said: "Demand for decorated glassware is on the up. Because many of today's theme bars and premier pubs are limiting opportunities for brewers to promote their brands, bespoke decorated glassware is fast becoming the promotional tool of choice as the branding is there from the moment of dispense to the last mouthful."
With beers feeling the pinch from premium packaged spirits in the fridge, the need for brewers to capture so-called "badge drinkers" with the draught product is all the more pressing.
"People are extremely image conscious and have been prepared to pay more to drink bottled beers but now they can do the same with beer from the tap," added Carl.
Charles Glassware has also seen an increase in demand for what it calls its Headkeeper nucleation process, a technological process whereby the inside of the glass is treated with minute glass particles in order to improve the appearance of the beer.
"It's a sure sign that brewers are going flat out to improve not only the appearance of their glassware, but also the appearance of the brands within the glass," said Carl.
"When fired the particles form a permanent stippled surface that creates a continuous breakout of carbon dioxide, ensuring the perfect head is built and retained," he explained. "Because we control precisely how these particles are applied, bubble flow can be set according to a brand's individual characteristics. What's more, we can recreate the most detailed brand identities or logos, providing a unique branding opportunity right under the consumer's nose."
A wine outlook
White-coated boffins have recently revealed what many wine buffs have been claiming for years, that a glass really does affect the taste of the wine within.
Research from America has proved that an experienced red wine drinker would notice a difference in taste depending on the size and shape of the glass.
Scientists at the University of Tennessee poured Merlot into three different glasses - a champagne flute, a Martini glass and a Bordeaux glass - and after twenty minutes a definite change in taste was apparent.
The larger surface area of the Bordeaux wine glass exposes the wine to a greater amount of oxygen. This produced higher levels of oxidation and reduces the amount of gallic acid which, in turn, tends to improve the taste.
Georg Riedel of Riedel Crystal, pioneer in the field of glass design, said: "I very much welcome the research. The shape of our glasses is determined through tasting and we have proved time and time again that wines taste very different when tasted in different glasses - it is great that independent scientific research supports our philosophy."
Wine buffs say...
- the younger the wine, the larger the glass should be as a small glass can make wine appear one-dimensional
- the glass should be smooth, transparent, colourless and unadorned
- wine tastes better from a thinner glass. A thick rim psychologically prepares us for a coarse wine
- the glass should have a long stem to prevent body heat from the hand increasing the temperature of the bowl. It shouldn't be so long, however, that it is difficult to hold.
- the International Standards Organisation (ISO) has established a standard benchmark glass for all wine judging and competitions. It is just under 15cm tall, has a five cm tall stem and a bowl with a height of 10cm. The diameter is 6.5cm at its widest and five cm across the rim.
Keeping it clean
Having posh glassware is all good and well but if it's not spick and span then you might as well not bother!
Customers return contaminated drinks and drinks served in dirty glasses and this will have a negative effect on the pub's reputation as well as the profit and loss sheet. So:
- Always make sure your have sufficient specialist glasswashing detergent to thoroughly clean your glasses. This reduces the need for scouring and makes your glasses last longer.
- Reduce the number of complaints by using a hygiene pre-wash to guarantee lipstick removal.
- Make sure you rinse your glasses properly when hand washing.
- Using a specialist glasswashing rinse aid. It means that glasses will dry properly and won't stick or leave rings on shelves.
Following the steps outlined above means you can achieve sparkling clean glasses, with no etching or clouding, which ultimately reduces costs, makes your life simple and brings a shine to your reputation!
- For further information visit www.johnsondiversey.co.uk or call 01604 405 311.