Why thin soda cans are everywhere

New York (CNN) Suddenly your drink is higher.

Beverage brands rely on packaging form and design to attract consumers. Now they are counting on a new range of thin aluminum cans to subtly signal to consumers that their exotic new drinks are healthier than beer and soft drinks in old, short, round cans.

Topo Chico, Simply and SunnyD recently launched alcoholic seltzers and cocktails in tall, thin cans, while Day One, Celsius and Starbucks have debuted sparkling water and energy drinks in new slim cans. Coke with coffee was also launched in a slim version last year.

As if describing a person,Ball (BLL), one of the largest manufacturers of aluminum cans, touts the “shorter, slimmer build” of its 12 oz. elegant cans compared to the classic (also 12 oz.) more powerful version.

Beverage makers are aiming to differentiate their products on crowded shelves and save money on shipping and packaging with thin cans, analysts and beverage makers say.

“Consumers see slim cans as more sophisticated, which makes them feel more sophisticated,” said Duane Stanford, editor of industry publication Beverage Digest. “For people who spend $3 for a mushroom elixir, they want the package to also signal trendy.”

Aluminum cans

Soda appeared in cans as early as 1938, but the first aluminum beverage can was used for a diet Coke called “Slenderella” in 1963, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute, a trade association. In 1967, Pepsi and Coke followed.

Traditionally, beverage companies chose 12 oz. squat model to give more space to advertise the contents of the drink on the body of the can with colorful details and logos.

Companies have even been panned for switching to skinny can models. In 2011, Pepsi released a “taller, sassier” version of its traditional can. The box, presented at New York Fashion Week, had the slogan: “The New Skinny”. It was widely criticized as offensive, and the National Eating Disorders Association said the company’s comments were both “thoughtless and irresponsible.”

White Claw’s thin white boxes have brought copies.

So why bring them back now? Partly because slim boxes are seen as premium and innovative. An increasing number of drinks are catering to health-driven consumers, and slim cans signal these qualities.

Companies are copying the success of other brands’ slim boxes. Red Bull was one of the first brands to popularize slim cans, and White Claw saw success with its hard seltzer in thin white cans.

Aluminum cans, regardless of size, are environmentally better than plastic, said Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and current president of Beyond Plastics. They can be made from recycled material and can be recycled more easily. If littered, they don’t pose the same risk as plastic, she said.

There is also a business incentive for thin designs.

Brands can push more 12 oz. thin boxes on store shelves, warehouse pallets and trucks than wider boxes, said Dave Fedewa, a partner at McKinsey who advises retail and consumer packaged goods. That means higher sales and cost savings.

But the key, Fedewa said, is that thin boxes catch the eye: “It’s funny how much growth can drive retail.”

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