Alcohol Packaging 101: Design, Sustainability and To-Go

Learn more about the best practices for alcohol packaging design, and creative new ideas for sustainable packaging that are shaping the industry..

Alcohol packaging is undergoing a revolution that addresses design, sustainability and to-go options. Beverage companies are looking for the best ways to capture and display their brand, reduce carbon emissions, and provide compliant to-go packaging. Learn more about the best practices for alcohol packaging and creative new ideas that are shaping the industry.

Fundamentals of Alcohol Packaging

When it comes to effective alcohol packaging, it all begins with a strong brand identity. Your branding, including your logo, should embody the essence of your company and influence every aspect of packaging design. As you consider different bottle designs and labels, think about the best ways to engage your customers and make sure that your brand stands out from the competition. Everything from the bottle size, shape, and color can be used to reflect the personality and priorities of your brand. 

Ultimately, your final design should tell a story and communicate a clear message while also evoking certain feelings in the customer. Without the key branding elements, you will find it difficult to stay afloat in today’s competitive spirit market.   

Packaging Alcohol for DTC Shipping

The United States Postal Service does not allow alcohol companies to ship their products directly to customers, however, private companies, including FedEx and UPS, do allow DTC shipping under certain regulations. As long as these companies follow certain rules regarding alcohol packaging, they can ship to consumers. 

Here are a few of UPS’ and FedEx’s alcohol packaging rules:

  • Packages must be inspected and deemed sturdy enough
  • Alcohol should be placed in the center of the shipment and cannot be packed towards the sides. 
  • Alcohol needs to be protected by inner packaging in the form of foam or a molded fiber tray 
  • The package must be clearly labeled as alcohol
  • Each label needs to clearly include the origin state and meet destination state guidelines

What is Considered a Sealed Container for Alcohol?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory closing of bars and restaurants around the country, many states have allowed customers to order sealed alcoholic beverages to go with their takeout or delivery food orders. However, there are some clear rules about what is considered a “sealed container.”

First, the drink must be sealed before delivery by an employee of the bar or restaurant. Second, a drink qualifies as a sealed container if it is a drink receptacle that can be sealed with a cork, stopper, cap or stub. If the drink meets these requirements, it can be sold with a delivery or takeout order.   

Sustainable Alcohol Packaging

While many beverage alcohol companies are implementing eco-friendly production practices, they may be focusing on the wrong area. When it comes to creating a carbon footprint, the biggest CO2 contribution actually occurs during the production of glass bottles and the shipping process. In fact, these two components of the supply chain can account for 51% to 68% of a wine product’s carbon footprint. 

Due to its impermeability, glass makes an ideal receptacle for beverages, but it also consumes a lot of resources in the form of heat, fuel and packaging just to create and ship. Cans can provide an alternative, but producing aluminum alloy also releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

For these reasons, engineers are finding new ways to get beverages to consumers and this is creating a new wave of beverage packaging. Part of this revolution is being driven by the fact that consumers are becoming more conscious about the climate and looking to support companies who are working towards sustainability. In fact, 73% of consumers report that they are happy to pay more to enjoy sustainable packaging and that number increases to 83% among younger demographics. 

Sustainable Materials and Solutions for Alcohol Packaging

Ultimately, while the effectiveness of any of these sustainable packaging solutions is tied to recycling and composting practices, innovative packaging solutions represent the first step towards reducing carbon footprints. Here are some of the alternative packaging solutions you may be seeing on the shelves soon. 

Cellulose Fiber Solutions

These products use layers of recycled paperboard that are fused together with water-based glue to create a bottle that is 94% chemical-free. The final product is also 5 times lighter than most glass bottles, which means that it requires less fuel to ship. The bottle is also resistant to humidity and spills and can survive up to a 5-foot drop without breaking. Beverages stored in a cellulose fiber bottle will be safely preserved for 12 months. The container is lined with a polyethylene metalized polyester laminate film, but this can be removed for recycling purposes.  

New Wave Plastic

Bottles are being produced using recycled PET, which is a BPA-free and food-safe plastic that is used in many other types of containers. Because it is recycled, it has a much lower carbon footprint compared to new plastic and PET creates a container that is 87% lighter than glass. Users can easily recycle the container again after use and enjoy a maximum shelf life of 21 months. 

Returnable Glass Bottles

Gotham Project is one example of a company using returnable glass bottles. Each bottle can be used up to 10 times, which can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 90%. This solution allows consumers to support sustainable efforts while still enjoying the experience of a glass wine bottle.

Shrinking the Product

Kegs are another beverage container that can sap resources. Essentially, a large stainless steel keg, mostly full of water, is shipped and an empty keg full of air is returned. This is a highly inefficient process. BrewVo, a Colorado-based company has developed a new solution that utilizes a membrane that effectively separates water from alcohol while preserving the aromas associated with fermentation. The result is a non-alcoholic beer with 6 times the flavor density of a full beer. The non-alcoholic version can be shipped in a bag and reconstituted with water and grain alcohol once it arrives at its destination. This system also creates more storage space in the taproom and reduces the need for refrigeration. 

When it comes to alcohol production and packaging the status quo is no longer enough to stay competitive and address the evolving purchasing behavior of consumers. Today’s savvy shoppers are deliberate about where and how they spend their money. Most importantly, they want to support companies that are working to create better communities through a variety of initiatives, including sustainability. Improving alcohol packaging is one way to address these issues and appeal to the modern consumer.


Looking for more tips on effective packaging and labeling? Download our free resource, “Labeling 101 The Secrets to Creating Effective Beverage Alcohol Labels” today.


What are the fundamentals for good alcohol packaging design? 

The fundamentals of great liquor bottle packaging and design consist of: developing a clear brand identity, using your packaging to tell a story, and finding ways for your brand to stand out against the competition. 

How do you package alcohol for shipping? 

Alcohol can be shipped via UPS and FedEx and packages must utilize an inner foam or molded tray, be deemed sturdy by the shipper, must be placed in the center of the shipment, be clearly labeled as alcohol, and have the origin and destination addresses clearly labeled. 

What is considered a sealed container for alcohol? 

Any receptacle that has been packaged by the establishment’s employee and can be corked or sealed.

What are some examples of sustainable alcohol packaging? 

Cellulose fiber packages, returnable and recycled glass bottles, recycled PET plastic bottles, and kegs that contain concentrated beer that is shipped without the water. 



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