In the can

By The Drum, Administrator

June 30, 2005 | 4 min read

Produced at its current Wellpark site since 1885 as the first lager to be brewed in the UK, Tennent’s Lager is Scotland’s oldest and biggest brand. By continually striving for innovation and originality, Tennent’s has successfully retained a brand freshness throughout the years, securing its long-term place as Scotland’s favourite. As the first to introduce canned lager in 1935 with a Brasso-style can, Tennent’s Lager has now, 70 years later, launched its latest incarnation with a contemporary use of the now infamous ‘Red T’.

Before investing in cans, Tennent’s was produced in bottles and Possil pottery. With the war effort in full swing it was almost impossible to source stoneware bottles. The tin plate ad shows the evolution from bottle to can.

Tennent’s was in the forefront of experimental beer can production in the 30s. Unfortunately World War 2 interrupted the can development and it was not until the early 50s that beer can production was again seriously looked at. Improved means of production meant that the Brasso-type can (1935) was superseded by a larger sealed can. This can was opened by means of a metal opener which took two triangles out of the lid allowing liquid out and air in. In 1955 Tennent’s Lager launched its first flat top cans in the UK.

Tennent’s, unlike all other can producers, developed the exterior of the can, not only as an advertisement for the product with the famous two glasses image, but early on struck on the idea of having various can designs on the reverse. The first designs were scenic views (1957), then housewives with recipes (1959) and finally the beginning of the famous ‘Can Girls’ in (1962). The first and best remembered girl was Anne, who was a housewife and the only model used until 1969. By 1970 a new series of girls had been chosen to replace Anne. They had to undergo rigorous interviews as they were seen as ambassadors of Tennent’s. The later Tennent’s girls cans show both the evolving technology and marketing strategy of the day. By 1981 a two-piece can had been introduced, meaning a new Reprotherm printing process had to be adopted. This superseded the old offset/lithography and paper label printing.

By start of the 1990’s an executive decision was made at Tennent’s to finish the can girl production, with Violet being the last Can Girl to appear in 1991.

When Tennent’s amalgamated with United Caledonian Breweries in 1966, it inherited the famous “Piper Export” brand which had eye-catching illustrations of Scottish Regimental Pipers.

The yellow cans were introduced in 1998. There have been two executions of this colouring until now with special editions for Tennent’s sport or music events.

In the last few years with the introduction of online services such as eBay, the value of cans has gone through the roof with early Tennent’s cans selling for in excess of $1000.

Taking us up-to-date, Tennent’s Lager’s new can is set for its imminent launch. With a powerful new design and a more streamlined look that complements Tennent’s innovative font and POS, the can, despite the introduction of silver for a more modern edge, still has the famous yellow and iconic ‘Red T’. The distinctive new design uses aluminium instead of steel, creating a more vibrant and modern packaging.

The new can has been introduced as part of a brand redesign programme costing the company in the region of £7million. In the past year or so, Tennent’s has introduced a new font to the on-trade, a new bottle design, new point of sale and merchandise, and new outer packaging for the can.


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