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Sustainability trumping aesthetics in packaging

Graham Gibson, co-founder of drinks development firm Alcohol Solutions, examines an emerging attitude towards drinks packaging that is more about performance and functionality than aesthetics.

Graham Gibson Alcohol Solutions

While traditional glass bottle packaging is still considered environmentally friendly, the sustainability agenda is opening people's minds to additonal formats that steer clear of plastics. Brands are setting their own ambitious sustainability goals, striving to revolutionise their packaging for the greater good to meet these targets and 'win out' over their competitors. Take Diageo, which has committed to several sustainable packaging targets for 2020, including a reduction in total packaging weight by 15 per cent, an increase in recycled content to 45 per cent, and making 100 per cent of packaging recyclable or reusable.

Of course, there is a lot to consider with beverage packaging as most products comprise several different materials, making it difficult to recycle easily. However, major international and artisan distilleries alike are undeterred as we see both listening to what consumers want and innovating appropriately.

According to recent research from Trivium Packaging, nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Where once a huge amount of value was placed upon aesthetics, consumers are now demanding products that are 'greener' and favouring brands that are willing to carry the sustainability mantel. 

Whisky packaged in paper bottles, glass corks on gin bottles and the use of Cradle to Cradle-certified inks on labelling to improve recyclability are all initiatives that are being adopted to support a more circular economy.

Aluminium, considered an 'infinitely recyclable material' with nearly 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced still in use today, continues to reign supreme in the sustainable drinks packaging arena. Nevertheless, as the popularity of canned drinks continues to rise, fuelled by the growth of the hard seltzer and canned cocktail categories, brands are also seeking to improve the way canned drinks are packaging with the elimination of plastic rings and shrink-wrap sleeves.

It is heartening to see the way that brands, both big and small, are working to reduce their reliance on plastics and carve out ways to think responsibly in their production to meet worldwide sustainability goals. By continuing to behave in this manner, prioritise continuous innovation and listen to the changing attitudes of consumers, both the world that we live in and businesses' bottom lines will benefit. 

Graham Gibson has worked with microdistilleries through to multinational brand owners, producing unique and exciting products to meet the changing demands of consumers. Find out more at

6 November 2020