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Beyond lightweighting

Sharon Crayton outlines how the glass industry has not only been able to take weight out of its packaging, but continues to innovate in other ways as well

Sharon Crayton Ardagh Group, Glass, Europe

There is no shortage of comment on the natural ability of glass to be endlessly recycled and to provide the perfect protection for retaining taste and shelf-life in ever lighter weight containers.  But are we inclined to overlook some of its more emotional associations?

We accept that consumers want to be reassured that the brand owner has reduced the environmental impact of the packaging used on their favourite brands as much as possible. And we fully concur that used packaging can must be properly recycled (we would say through a closed loop system) and will not end up as waste in landfill.

In the area of lightweighting, our industry has been very active over decades. My own company’s recent success in taking out 11 per cent of the weight of the Becks beer bottle joins a long list of achievements over these years.  This is a high volume brand, so a significant reduction in weight has had a big impact on overall environmental performance

The current best in-class weight for a 330ml beer bottle from Ardagh is 155g (produced in Germany), which is typically half the weight that an equivalent container would have been 15 years ago.

We would say that sustainability should be measured against more than weight reduction. The resource category of the recently published EU Resource Efficiency Road Map  now recognises glass packaging as a “Permanent Resource”. As both developed and emerging markets, faced with every diminishing resources, have to turn their attention towards the creation of a “Circular Economy”, glass, which can be infinitely and 100% recycled, is very well placed.

Beyond its sustainability credentials, glass has many aesthetic qualities that can be turned to the advantage of the brands that use it by reaching out and engaging more at an emotional level with consumers in the overall product experience.

The notion that “Coca Cola tastes better in glass” has cascaded through all social media channels thanks to the passion of many consumers. Another simpler and frequently experienced example of consumer interaction with glass is that beautiful refreshing sound made by two glasses or bottles as they are ‘chinked’ together to say cheers!

Technology plays an important role as well. At Ardagh we are used to stretching the boundaries to give our customers a competitive advantage. So using the modern technique of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) we were able to create some new and nice ‘non-round’ bottle neck shapes for a number of popular beer brands, including  Beck’s and Bavaria, helping them to stand out from the crowd.

For the recent Milan Design Week, Heineken created what is believed to be the world’s first motion sensitive bottle with Heineken Ignite. Conceived particularly for night clubs, the bottle, with built in LEDs, uses a micro- processor and accelerator to detect motion and sound. The bottle lights up to the beat of music, or to the motion of the user’s dance movements.

The Absolut Unique campaign captures many of these features, four million completely unique, different bottles that epitomise the creative DNA of the Absolut brand, yet at the same time celebrating its uniqueness.

In what was a first for the packaging industry, Ardagh worked closely with Absolut to use an in-line decoration system that has been designed and refined over many years to develop total consistency of decoration to one which was designed to deliver the opposite – total differentiation on four million occasions!

Mix total sustainability with unusual shapes, exciting colours and astounding decorative effects, and you have in glass packaging a cocktail to suit any drinking occasion. A fair achievement when you consider that it been around for 5,000 years, yet continues to innovate.


1 August 2013