Note: This article appears in the December 2018 Glass & Crystal Report. To ensure that you can access this and other industry-focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!
Take a few steps into any big-box store and you will see a display of abominable snowman tumblers — these vacuum products are everywhere. They are great at keeping drinks hot or cold for hours. But concluding that sellable drinkware begins and ends with vacuum stainless-steel items would be erroneous. There are alternatives.
The Wide Appeal of Glassware
In the beverage cutter and decorator arena, nothing can compete with the sheer volume of glassware. You will find decorated glassware in just about every type of business across the United States. Imprinted pint glasses are used in bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. You will find them in sporting goods stores with your favorite team logo. Beer companies are always using pints to promote their latest seasonal ale. Shot glasses are sold in every gift and souvenir shop from Yellowstone to Niagara Falls. Personalized stemware is widely used across the wedding, party, and prom markets.
The large volume of glassware sold has continued to grow thanks to the proliferation of microbreweries and microwineries. These companies have introduced America to many new types of beers, wines, and spirits. These new beverages have unique properties requiring a specific type of glass to enhance their flavors. This has created a large demand for new types and shapes of glassware. Many of these new shapes are becoming popular decorator blanks.
Pint glasses are still the top-selling beverage glass. These are used for beer, sodas, iced tea, water, and many other drinks. There have been dozens of new beer glasses introduced over the years. Pint glasses are often used as shakers and to serve lager, ales, IPAs, stouts, and porters. There are many new goblet- and chalice-shaped glasses designed to serve heavier beers. You have your pilsner and weizen glasses. They look similar, but each is used for different types of beers. You will also find snifters used for different IPAs while tulip and thistle glasses are often used for ales.
Sometimes it is impossible to decide what beer or wine you want to try. Menu gridlock created a new category of glass: the taster. Just about every craft beverage house offers some sort of taster assortment. This gives patrons the ability to sample a small amount of several different beers, wines, and spirits. We have seen many different shapes and sizes of tasters added to the market. In addition to being used as tasters, these small, inexpensive glasses are often used as souvenir items. They make a great substitute to the traditional 1.5-ounce shots seen everywhere.
Stemless wine glasses have been around too long to be called trendy but they are still popular. Stemless glasses are perhaps the only type of glass that can rival the sales of pints and shots in the cutter decorator market. We can find stemless glasses ranging size from 5-ounce tasters to over 20-ounce glasses. There are stemless red wine and white wine glasses, as well as stemless flutes. There are even stemless spirit glasses. Stemless glasses tend to be less expensive than a comparable stemmed piece, so they are great items to present to your customers at lower prices.
With so many choices, it’s important you offer your customer the glass that meets their needs. Be sure to ask all the right questions to determine the drinkware that’s right for them.
Time to Decorate
After you have selected the type of glasses you will offer for a particular sale, it is time to personalize them. This is the strength of glass. You can find a glass that works with every type of decorating.
If you want to produce a lot of glass in a short amount of time, direct printing is the method for you. Whether you are applying inks using a screen print machine or one of the new direct-to-substrate printers, there is no faster way to apply color to your glasses. There are no-fire, low-fire, and high-fire inks. Each works for different applications. The latest trend is UV-cure inks, which work well on glassware. Glassware without handles complements the direct-print machines.
Higher end customers often look for more sophisticated-looking personalization. Cutting or engraving is a great solution for these accounts. You can decorate glassware using rotary, laser, and sandcarving equipment. Lasering requires less setup and cleanup time. Sandcarving gives you a nice, deep etch. You can see and feel the difference between a sandcarved piece from one that was lasered. All of these forms give your glasses a nice classy look.
To enhance the perceived value of your work, consider using a high-end blank. A sheer rim soda lime piece looks much more elegant than the standard beaded rim glasses. You can even consider using some of the new crystal-like glasses that have come into the market recently. These glasses have the clarity and acoustic qualities of the old lead crystal glass, cost about half the price of the lead crystal, and increase the perceived value of your creations. This is a great way to make more money for your time and labor.
Say your customer is not happy with the glass offerings you show first. Consider offering some sprayed glassware. There are several companies in the U.S. providing specialty spray processes. Gloss, satin, opaque, and translucent finishes in every imaginable color can be achieved by spraying your glasses. Once the glasses are sprayed, they can be decorated using any of the techniques mentioned previously.
Spraying your glass with a sublimation coating opens an entire new world of decorating. You can cover the entire exterior surface of a pint glass with limitless colors using sublimation. Professional, collegiate, and high school sports teams are all particular when it comes to displaying their colors. With sublimation, you can reproduce any team color. Sublimation is a great tool to sell your glassware to all types of schools and sporting teams.
Match the Glass to the Use
Once you have chosen the glasses you want to offer and the personalization equipment has been purchased, it is time to sell. The key is matching the glasses to the use. For example, you want to offer the men’s dart league a nice heavy-duty sport mug, not a stemless wine glass. Stemless wines are instead a perfect selection for a bridal shower or book club. If your customers are looking for personalized glassware for a country club or cigar bar, offer them a classy rocks glass.
A little research goes a long way. Ask questions — know how the glass will be used. Find out what type of items the customer has used in the past and sell them a new, updated item from the same category. If possible, provide samples. Nothing beats holding an item in your hands while deciding. Sampling is your bestselling tool.
Your customers are most likely buying glassware from somebody. Make sure they are buying it from you. The functionality of glass makes it easy to take business from other categories. Don’t limit your selling to accounts using glass. Sell your glass to people that are buying any type of personalized and award product. You can find a glass that fits everyone’s situation.