BELGIUM – The world’s largest brewer, AB InBev is piloting a new labeling technology in the UK that prints its label designs on bottles in a move that aims to eliminate paper labels on its beer brands.

The Belgium based brewer is developing the technology at the company’s Tattoo Alpha Plant in Haasrode, Leuven,  and if successful, could be expanded from the UK to its other operations worldwide.

The new scheme is said to have environmental and cost benefits due to the reduction in paper.

“While fuller economic footprint analyses are still being done of the new technology, printing directly onto the bottle will remove label materials used in more traditional printing methods,” an AB InBev spokesperson told MarketWatch.

The labeling technology involves applying Ink and varnish directly to the glass with a ‘no label’ look, which wraps around the entire bottle. It also is digitally embossed, giving a raised tactile effect.

“Direct object printing on glass is a revolution in print and AB InBev is pioneering this technology,” said Simon Gerdesmann, TAP site manager.

“This digital embossing is one of the most unusual capabilities of this technology. Colourless ink is used to [mimic] traditional glass embossing, bringing a new dimension to bottle decoration — consumers will feel and experience a bottle in a completely different way.”

Among the benefits of the technology is reduction of lead times for small batches to possibly four weeks faster than traditional bottle labels, from designing to having it on the shelf.

AB InBeV’s Global Innovation and Technology Center has partnered with artists in to launch a limited edition of the bottles in the UK. The collaboration will be launching nine bottle designs.

While the brewer has previously tested the innovation on small batches to mark specific occasions, this would be the first time the technology has been used in the broader mass market.

As part of a global move by companies to explore sustainable and innovative packaging, Danish brewer Carlsberg has also developed its first prototype bottles made from paper that can be pulped and recycled after use.