Grolsch bottle

Food Explorer #4: A South African food scientist explores Grolsch

Lisa Ronquest is one of South Africa’s top young food scientists, now transferred by Mars to work in The Netherlands in a global food R&D role for the multinational. She’s been sharing her impressions and insights with FOODStuff SA readers in a regular column, and we’re proud here to publish the fourth of her essays on her big move. This time, Lisa explores Grolsch!

FOR ME, Grolsch epitomises all that great packaging should be for packaged foods and beverages. It seems rather fitting that it originates from the Netherlands since I am now based there. Created all the way back in 1615 and now owned by our very own SABMiller.

Firstly, it grabs your attention! With the iconic swing-top closure, it just makes you want to pick it up and crack it open. The entire bottle design is the extension of the brand image with the brand rooted in the motto ‘Craftsmanship is Mastery’.The bottle is designed with three embossed grip lines with a scoop on its body, which emphasises the tactile experience when you hold it.

On the whole, packaging in Europe is very attractive and eye catching, with full-colour printing the standard even for private label products. For instance, even full colour foil seals for margarine tubs and individually-wrapped, fully-printed tagged teabags are the norm.

Another key packaging attribute is that it should function effectively. The swing-top closure of the Grolsch bottle works beautifully and one enjoys every minute of opening it. Indeed, Grolsch has employed a variety of features to enhance the functionality of its packaging such as a can-opening that’s larger for improved ‘gulpability’, and a taste-protecting foil on the inside of the can and a ‘cool-meter’ indicator, which turns blue when the beer is well chilled.

From my experience, the majority of packaging in Europe functions as it’s intended to. In fact, I am sometimes surprised by just how well this is accomplished with, for example, laser scores for tear strips that enable opening and even resealing of packaging. Cold meats and cheese packaging boast effective resealing which ensures that the products don’t dessicate from oxygen exposure once opened and back in the fridge. There are also cut-off valves in almost every squeezy bottle I have used from mayonnaise to honey that really work – an absolute pleasure.

Packaging innovation for enhanced choice and convenience has been truly explored in developed markets to increase usage occasions – and sales. This is especially evident when it comes to a traditional favourite like Heinz Baked Beans in the UK. No longer just available in the ordinary can, there are flavour twists like fiery chilli, curry, pork sausages; resealable bulk jars for stocking up; multi-packs and microwavable snap pots for on-the-go snacking.

The same can be said for Grolsch, with options including Grolsch swing-top, 330ml and 250ml bottles and Grolsch cans, which all have a consistency of appearance across the range. Notably, design features such as three embossed grip lines, date of origin, identical labels and bottle shape are consistent across the different formats.

‘Green’ concerns are also important. From my research I found that Grolsch is going to focus on further reducing the volume of packaging material used, on reusing packaging, recycling materials and on using enviro-friendly, sustainable and light-weight materials.

Post-use of packaging is very seldom considered when designing packaging. Grolsch, on the other hand, has always ended up with an ‘after-beer-life’. From containing salad dressings to water at home or in restaurants, the post-use options are as numerous as owners’ imaginations. In another development, the Grolsch beer without the swing-top can now be bought in crates, part of a returns system for both the bottles and crates.

Grolsch’s responsibility for the environment extends beyond packaging to their operations and even back in 2009, they achieved a reuse rate of 99.7% of its by-products and waste.

Perhaps it’s the sheer volume of consumers in Europe that enables the scale to make the necessary investments into these value-adding features in packaging. In my packaging days  with Nampak and Bokomo in South Africa, I remember each time we explored adding a feature like a laser score or unique bottle shape the volumes could never justify the investment and SA consumers were denied the chance to enjoy the benefit.

Finally, the fundamental function of packaging has always been to protect the contents, and when it comes to Groslch, the product is always crisp and refreshing especially as summer has finally reached Europe. Cheers!

About this column

Lisa RonquestLisa Ronquest is currently Head of Product Development – Global Food R&D at Mars Inc, based in The Netherlands. The intention of this column is to be both a personal and professional account of a South African food scientist exploring life and work in a developed market.

You can contact her at [email protected].

Related reading:

Food Explorer #3: A South African food scientist explores chocolate in Belgium

Food Explorer #2: A South African food scientist goes shopping abroad

Food Explorer #1: A South African food scientist taking on a global R&D role