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Guest Column: Ryan Noward, Trivium Packaging

Ryan Noward, Vice President, Head of Global Beverage, Trivium Packaging

It’s time to reimagine the role of packaging in beverages

At its core, the function of packaging is to protect and preserve its contents. When it comes to beverages, they need to be protected end-to-end - from the initial packaging process, through transportation and distribution right up until consumption. So, it’s essential that packaging is durable and robust, especially if the drinks contained within are liable to spoil when exposed to air or light.

Finding the ideal packaging

It’s well known that the beverage market caters to convenience and portability, two key traits that have led to a market saturated in single-use plastics or solutions that utilise a laminated layer of metal. Both of these are proven to have a limited lifecycle when it comes to recycling. Finding the ideal packaging for a beverage shouldn’t stop at convenience and portability and nor should it give up those traits. Ideal packaging should consider sustainability, protection of the product, viability of the product for its use cases, and positioning in the market. For some products, certain materials may not be the best choice and therefore alternatives should be considered. 

The properties of metal allow cans to fulfill the primary function of any packaging, namely protecting contents from contamination, spoilage, and damage at all stages of the supply chain. And while commonly used to package many foods for decades, for the drinks market, metal - and aluminium (bottles) in particular – is underused and has the potential to make a further positive impact on the drinks market.     

Thinking green    

In today’s market, sustainability of packaging is a key consideration for brands. The 2022 Buying Green Report shows that 68% of consumers have chosen a product in the last six months based on its sustainability credentials. Similarly,57% of consumers are “less likely” to buy products in harmful packaging. 

In addition, 86% of consumers among younger generations (aged under 45) showed a willingness to pay more for products in sustainable packaging. In Europe, 60% of respondents considered plastic to be harmful and related plastic to ocean pollution. 51% of consumers in this region also say they won’t buy products in packaging they view as harmful to the environment. Given these statistics, there is a significant risk for brands that choose to ignore the sustainability of their packaging.

This is another area where aluminium hits the packaging brief. Aluminium can be recycled again and again. In fact, 75% of aluminium that’s ever been produced is still in use today

Environmental considerations

The environmental impact of packaging is also driving increased regulation. The global plastic treaty is a resolution now being considered by the United Nations and is widely agreed to be a key moment in sustainability regulation. It isdesigned to reduce the impact of plastics on the environment by taking a circular economy approach to plastic design, manufacturing, use, and disposal. 

Consistent media coverage highlighting the impact of waste on the environment has helped to awaken consumer consciousness. The Buying Green Report also shows, for example, that globally 89% of consumers do not consider plastic packaging to be eco-friendly and 56% consider plastic to be harmful to the environment. 

While glass is infinitely recyclable, it is heavy and shatters easily. The weight of glass makes transportation more expensive than lighter materials. Its fragility makes it unsuitable for situations such as concerts or stadiums. Similarly, the layers of multi-layer carton substrates are often not accommodated by many countries’ recycling infrastructures. This leads to a gap between what is recyclable and what is recycled. If part of the carton is recyclable the presence of the non-recyclable substrate means it all ends up in landfill.  

As a result, a number of brands are turning to metal as a sustainable and durable packaging alternative. In  doing sothey are reimagining the role their packaging plays. Indeed, across the beverage industry, brands such as Brita (Water), alcoholic Kombucha beverage LowKa (by Khappy), energy drink Uptime, gin and tonic Aconcagua, and Pelee Island Winery have created unique aluminum bottles, eliminating single-use plastics and catering to their sustainability-conscious consumers.

Get creative with packaging 
Along with durability and sustainability, manufacturers are finding that metal packaging opens up new opportunities for marketing their brands. Packaging technology has advanced so the bottle can act as a canvas to advertise its content with a wide variety of colors and treatments that can be applied to the artwork. With metal packaging vessels, it’s possible to print directly onto the product in a variety of colors and finishes enabling brands to use the entire surface area. This eliminates the need for extra layers, such as labels or sleeves, on the packaging, all without hindering or adding difficulty to the recycling process as it can with other substrates.

Advanced graphics and prominent colours can take centre stage without sacrificing packaging functionality or recyclability. Research suggests that one-third of consumer purchasing choices are based on packaging alone, so the opportunities for brand creativity can be a gamechanger for sales. 

Stand out from the crowd

Brands that want to get ahead and stay ahead need to continually reevaluate their packaging. Is it as sustainable as it could be? Does it stand out on the shelf? Does it speak to the target audience? In order to cater to an increasingly environmentally conscious audience and to visually stand out against numerous competitor brands, many beverage producers are turning away from other substrates and looking to metal as a durable, sustainable alternative. With the ability to improve sustainability while making their packaging stand out, many producers are finding that metal packaging has the potential to give their brand a competitive edge. 

8 December 2022 - Ryan Noward