Slow beer brewed on Bornholm steps up the pace

Punchy labels on Svaneke Bryghus' specialty beers (Source: Herma)

 Within just 15 years a small brewery on the island of Bornholm has emerged as one of Denmark’s leading suppliers of speciality beers. It is now targeting further expansion which is being driven by exports. Punchy labels that hold fast even on wet surfaces, thanks to multi-layer adhesive technology, are an essential ingredient for successful marketing.

Written by Ingolf Doler


Craft beers are currently enjoying a surge in popularity. What began as the preserve of beer aficionados worldwide has long since become a significant and fast-growing business segment. More and more enterprises are entering the fray – even the large corporations are seeking to reinvent themselves as craft brewers. The brewer’s craft and distinctive brews crucially depend on large measures of both patience and passion.

Svaneke Bryghus, which now ranks among the most successful and largest speciality breweries in Denmark, possesses both of these virtues in abundance. Slow beer is the company’s tagline, reflecting its indulgence in a particularly long maturation process. Its growth, in contrast, has been rapid. Founded as recently as 2000, Svaneke Bryghus now sells 2.5 million bottles and a total of around two million litres of beer a year. Its range encompasses 30 different beers, from American Pale Ale and a classic Pilsner style to a strong Baltic Porter with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 7.2%. Since 2005 a German brewmaster has been making certain that only the finest quality ingredients find their way into the company’s bottles and barrels. In its own restaurant on the brewery’s premises, one of Denmark’s first beer sommeliers is on hand to offer guests advice.

“The appearance plays a vital role”

Success depends nowadays on more than just mastery of the brewing art and patience. “It is a fascinating but extremely tough market, especially since the major multinationals have taken an active interest in the speciality segment”, says Daniel Barslund, CEO of Svaneke Bryghus A/S. “Our compelling argument is quality. Customers who try our beer generally come back for more. In order to arouse curiosity in the first place, however, the appearance of the bottles plays a vital role.”

Barslund and his team have not only designed their own bottle shape, characterised by an unusually sleek neck, but also landed a marketing coup with a distinctive label template. It traces the outline of the island of Bornholm, where the brewery has its home. “Bornholm enjoys a very favourable reputation in Denmark as an idyllic holiday destination. Everybody here and a growing number of tourists from all over Europe are familiar with its shape”. While using the island’s standing to the brewery’s advantage, Barslund was seeking to achieve more, as he explains, “We brew what is probably the best beer in Denmark, and we wanted to create a label with a look and feel that reflects its quality. It’s already a commonplace strategy in the wine industry”. And Barslund is well aware that luxury food and drink marketing needs to tell a story about the brand that appeals to consumers’ emotions. What could be a better choice of anchor for the company’s advertising than the island of Bornholm, where the concept of slow food is currently very much in vogue? From a technical perspective, however, the design presented a challenge. In the fully automatic bottling plant at Svaneke Bryghus the labels must not only be applied to cold and moist bottles, but must also adhere extremely well.

A good eye for labelling trends

Daniel Barslund contacted Scanket, a versatile label print shop located in Birkerød near Copenhagen. The company had a track record of overcoming difficult challenges, as Daniel Barslund knew from his own previous sales experience in the seafood sector. Scanket employs around 30 people, and had already established a strong reputation – not least thanks to substantial investments in state-of-the-art machinery, including two eight-colour MPS UV flexo presses and two seven-colour HP Indigo WS6800 digital presses. The two managing partners, Martin Fundal and Poul Vium, are also widely acknowledged as being extremely well-versed in identifying emerging trends in both label stock and adhesives. “In the case of Svaneke Bryghus, the adhesive for the labels presents by far the greatest challenge”, explains Poul Vium. “Despite the existence of a drying system, the bottles are not simply moist, but practically wet. Applying the large front label and the rear label to the bottle without any slippage, as well as the small label to the slim neck, is an art in itself. Especially high initial tack is essential. And the label stock must be capable of withstanding a lot of moisture, otherwise the label’s appearance would be impaired”.

A new adhesive technology

Initial trials undertaken with a textured paper proved unconvincing. “Some of the labels fell off or stuck to each other. When we heard that Herma had developed a new adhesive technology and a comprehensive range of exclusive label materials specifically in response to such challenges, we naturally became curious”.

Three years ago Scanket became the first Danish printer to use adhesive material with a textured surface together with the new multi-layer adhesive technology. “Poul Vium immediately recognised the opportunities afforded by this label stock”, recalls Jan-Ole Hegedahl of Papermind, Herma’s Danish distribution partner.

Hermaexquisite, as the new range of adhesive materials is known, originally targeted the wine bottle labelling segment. Among other benefits, multi-layer technology – the technique of applying two different layers of adhesive simultaneously – gives rise to excellent adhesive properties in cool and moist conditions. The 62W adhesive passes the especially rigorous “cooler test” with distinction. Even after prolonged submersion in a wine cooler or cool box, labels coated with this adhesive remain attached to the bottles. Hermaexquisite therefore satisfies the technical requirements imposed by users wishing to apply attractive labels to beer bottles.

Herma’s multi-layer technology allows label printers to exploit the outstanding adhesive properties without having to accept any compromises during processing. 62W is a multi-layer adhesive based on a dispersion adhesive with an excellent and long-standing track record in the marketplace. “Unlike the special adhesives that are often used in such applications, Hermaexquisite offers outstanding processing attributes”, reports Sören Jörgensen, who heads the Scanket production team. “Adhesive bleeding, for example, is almost entirely eliminated.”

Ideal stock for a special growth story

For both the printers at Scanket and Svaneke Bryghus it was at least as important, however, that the Hermaexquisite range encompassed a wide range of high-quality label materials which primarily contains not only various textured and moisture-proof papers, but also coated papers, aluminium papers and films. This variety gives rise to an abundance of design options.

Svaneke Bryghus decided in favour of Hermamartelé white (320) for its labels, a white, uncoated wet-strength paper with a hammer embossed texture whose look and feel convey all the qualities of a hand-made product. “The label has excellent grip and volume. When you run your fingers across the paper, it feels good. It offers exactly the qualities that we were seeking to achieve,” confirms the brewery’s CEO Daniel Barslund. “Scanket’s printing conveys these properties beautifully. We have thus created an exclusive look that not only gives us appeal on the expert markets, but also underpins our special story.”

The export trade no longer encompasses just Sweden and Norway, but also Germany, UK, France, Italy, and even China. Although the focus will remain on the Scandinavian countries for the foreseeable future, Barslund says, “We not only intend to, but are compelled to grow the export business year by year in view of the substantial investments we have made in state-or-the-art brewing technology and a high-output bottling plant.” The labels will clearly be delivering the brewer’s unique message at the point of sale in Denmark and the wider world for some time to come.

This article was first published in NarrowWebTech, issue 1-2017.

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