How Fitzroy Utilized Activism to Design this Outstanding Sustainable Rum

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 06/21/2017 | 6 Minute Read

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One man’s trash. Fitzroy Premium Navy Rum is more than just stunning packaging design—it’s also about sustainability and creating a product that doesn’t just end up in the landfill. We spoke with Marnix Tiggeloven at Fitzroy to learn more about the process of creating this delightful rum, crafting the story behind it, making it sustainable, and more. 

Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.

Fitzroy: It started with the rum and the angle to address the serious issue of pollution in the oceans.Our link with the naval symbolism is fairly strong. So it all felt pretty natural and the process of designing was super fun.

We began with the most important ‘asset’—The Rum. Located in the center of Amsterdam is a company called E&A Scheer. They are renowned rum blenders since the 18th century. Together with their master blender we explored numerous different navy style blends. The most important success criteria was that we would want to buy and drink it ourselves. Pure… and mixed with Ginger Beer (as a Dark and Stormy). So after we selected 3 different blends that we liked, we checked with some well known cocktail shakers and bar men from our network to choose the perfect blend. So now we have a typical Navy Style Rum: dark and heavy originated from only anglophone Caribbean islands. A blend of unlayered pot still rum from Jamaica, 3 year old rum from Barbados and unlayered Trinidad rum.

After the rum, we started working on the design of the bottle. We wanted to use plastic from the North Sea to create a special marble like cap. We had seen some samples before for another project and we immediately fell in love with the idea that plastic waste could look like expensive marble. We found a company that could help us with sourcing the plastic waste. They went to the beaches of Texel to look for plastic waste that washed ashore. We heard that at some of the beaches Coca Cola labels were found and we immediately focused on getting those labels to be used in our product. A big brand, losing a big batch of plastic labels during transport, washed ashore. Most of the time a perfect match with rum (rum and coke). And now even better!

For the label design we wanted to keep things simple and to invite people to peel the labels off after the bottle is finished and start using this as a beautiful water bottle. But because we also had a story to tell we used wrappers to address our mission. With old navy style illustrations we created scenes that looked like old marine icons yet always with a link to over consumption. A sea mermaid with obesitas. The famous Kraken monster all wrapped up in plastic…etc.

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What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with this rum packaging and how did you accomplish it?

Fitzroy: As an ad agency we previously worked for big brands like Bacardi & Jack Daniels, so we got to know the market for hard liquors quite well. We were always wondering why there were no brands or products addressing environmental issues. I mean, it feels logical that these big brands are more focussed on fuelling the hedonistic lifestyle of their consumers, but you would expect that at least a few of them would address some more serious issues. But no—and we felt that it’s about time. So our main goal was to raise awareness and invite people to join in this modest form of ‘activism.’

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What was the most challenging part of this project?

Fitzroy: We had a few challenges to overcome. Most important one was the ‘clash of styles’ between the naval illustrations and the classy, chic marble look of the cap. We like them both. And to be honest now… after some weeks looking at the bottle it doesn’t bother me anymore, but at the time we were struggling. The cap was obviously the most important element of our design so we didn’t wanted to change that. So after a lot of different label designs we decided to use the illustrations—that are important to our story—and print them on the inside of the wrapper. But in a such a way that you could see from the outside that there was something printed on the inside of the wrapper. This way we could use all our important design features. And if you look at the bottle from a distance it still has an intriguing clean style. But also a full story to tell if you buy it. ;)

How did you balance the sustainability aspect of Fitzroy Premium Navy Rum while also incorporating unique, standout details?

Fitzroy: This was actually not that difficult because we didn’t start with a business case. We were following our stream of ideas of creating something sustainable first. We didn’t need to do any concessions, we just picked everything we liked from a choice of sustainable solutions. Although we now have learned that we can get glass/bottles that are even more sustainable but aren’t that transparent…so that will definitely raise some eyebrows when we develop a new batch.

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If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?

Fitzroy: The ‘marble’ cap. This is the heart and soul of the design and the idea. This piece of unique plastic has done a fair bit of travelling and has a intriguing story. First created as a label for Coca Cola, ended up in the North Sea, got washed up ashore in Texel, found by a team of environmental protectionists, transported, washed, heated and then getting served as a piece of marble on a bottle of rum.

Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.

Fitzroy: It is more fun when you design it for yourself and your friends haha!

We had some time pressure because we had a specific launch date. I would definitely have worked longer on the product if we didn’t had that deadline. But in the end I believe that was a good thing. It is a process that you have to cut off at a certain moment. Create your own deadline. Just go. Now I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

What advice do you have for other designers who want to create more sustainable products?

Fitzroy: Work together. We for instance didn’t know a lot about the different techniques to recycle plastic. And there were so many different people helping us. Pointing us in new directions and coming up with ideas we wouldn’t have had without their input.

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