PDC & You: Limited Edition Ricard Bleu
Ricard’s pastis is an emblem of the South of France. A sip of the anise and licorice-flavoured apéritif transports you to the French Riviera – a taste of sunshine. Founded in Marseille, the company has been making pastis since the 1930s, and now 40 million litres of Ricard are sold each year.
For such an iconic drink, you need iconic packaging.
Success like Ricard’s relies on sticking to your winning formula, but also innovating to stay relevant. When the 2016 UEFA Euros were hosted in France, football fever took over the nation. “Allez les bleus” or “Go Blues” could be heard everywhere as the French got behind their team – and Ricard was no different, developing Blue bottle sleeves to jump on the trend and support the nations hope of becoming European football champions.
Although France’s success fell short at the final hurdle, Ricard’s came up trumps with a limited-edition sleeve that become something of a collector’s item for the French.
Using PDC’s R-Ultimate sleeve applicator, Ricard’s marketing team designed new sleeves to shrink onto their bottles, giving their pastis a fresh new look.
Why Ricard chose shrink sleeves?
“Shrink sleeves offered multiple advantages – notably the possibilty for a single sleeve to include protection, information, and branding” explained Michel Foulquier, then manager at Ricard’s Bessan branch where the sleeving took place. “The sleeve is chic, it’s innovative and it can change and evolve with new designs & limited editions.”
Philippe Vandenbrouck, then production engineer, was equally taken with the technology – though more the applicator itself than the end result! “It simultaneously tracks the bottles and sleeves them. This machine is currently one-of-a-kind – but I’m sure we’ll be investing in more soon.”
The challenge lay in installing the applicator, which measured 14m long, in a limited space. “PDC offered lots of training support, which meant that we could get on with the work which was a big success for the Bessan plant!”
So, how does the sleeving work?
“The sleeving happens in 4 steps” explains Vandenbrouck, “Firstly, the bottle needs to be oriented to ensure the sleeve is applied on the correct side, next comes the sleeving itself. Next, the bottle is located and identified by the applicator, and then it receives the sleeve. Then comes step 3 – we heat the bottle so that the sleeve shrinks. We then heat it a second time so that to perfect the sleeving and ensure it takes the precise form of the bottle to finish the job.”
Ricard worked closely with their distributors and large supermarket groups to ensure they kept up with demand for this time-sensitive, limited edition bottle. Marlène Meyer, Bessan’s production manager, worked closely with her team to rise to this challenge, and at the end of every day of the project they had 70,000 bottles ready to ship. “We needed to produce 1,727,000 Ricard Bleu bottles – and together we rose to the challenge”
Foulquier “Here in Bessan, this project was the first of its kind, so of course it was a new challenge for our team, but we are really proud of what we’ve achieved. It was well worth it, and the results speak for themselves – the bottle is terrific!
PDC’s R-Ultimate Shrink Applicator
The R-Ultimate shrink applicator was a key part in the success of the Ricard Bleu campaign. Its speed and reliability enabled the team to meet their targets by increasing their daily production capacity. The flexibility and ease to change the label input meant that the dream of a limited edition bottle design became a reality with ease.
France may have lost the Euros that summer, but they went on to win the next World Cup, and who’s to say that it wasn’t thanks in part to Ricard Bleu’s stylish shrink sleeves?