Steam Whistle steams ahead with new packaging

The brewer adds nutritional information to target young Canadians who want to know what's in their beer.



Steam Whistle’s old beer bottle design (on the left) and its new streamlined design on the right.

What’s in your beer?

That’s the question Steam Whistle Brewing is hoping to get more Canadians to ask with its new labels, which provide beer drinkers with nutritional information and an ingredient list.

Brewers don’t have to provide that information on its labels in Canada, but the Toronto-based craft brewer sees being transparent about what’s in their pilsner as a way to differentiate itself from the competition. And Tim McLaughlin, Steam Whistle’s director of marketing, says it’s also a great way to reach millennials and Gen Zers who care more than older generations about what’s in the food and drinks they buy and consume.

McLaughlin says many of “the well-respected premium imports, and a lot of the domestic beers are using things like corn syrup, foam stabilizers, and artificial preservatives. So for us, the inclusion of the nutritional label is to have a conversation about what goes in our beer and first and foremost what doesn’t go in our beer.”

The marketing director says the independent brewery was inspired by A&W, which was able to refresh its brand and reach a whole new generation by being transparent about what goes in its products.

New CansThe labels are part of a larger packaging refresh. The new packaging keeps the bright green, blue and white colour scheme intact, as well as adding in platinum. The old logo used Benguiat Std, while the new one features a customized font that was designed internally. And the iconic steam whistle icon was made more prominent and consistent across the packaging in a bid to leverage the brand’s “most important asset.”

“The idea there was to further make the steam whistle the hero,” says McLaughlin. “[So] that maybe ten years from now we don’t even have the words Steam Whistle. It will just be like the Nike swoosh or the Starbucks siren.”

The packaging refresh is part of the first full brand refresh the brewery has done since it launched in 2000. As part of the total overhaul, the beer brand has a new slogan “Pure Pilsner,” replacing “Do One Thing Really, Really Well.” The aim with the refresh is to take direct aim at import brands, which also sells beer in green bottles, such as Heineken and Stella Artois.

In support of the total refresh there was a “360 campaign” that includes radio and TV ads, which ran all summer. The campaign also included a push on social and digital. Rack & Pinion produced the television ads, Wavemaker did the media buy, Blacksmith Design Co. handled the packaging, while the brand refresh was done in-house.

Going all in worked out for Steam Whistle, with the campaign resulting in “double-digit” sales growth, says McLaughlin.