Plant-based packaging – the next big move for the beverage industry?

by Maureen Aylward

The Coca-Cola Company recently announced that it transitioned two of its beverage lines to plant-based packaging, Odwalla and Dasani. One of Coca-Cola’s representatives says that it is the company’s goal to make plastic bottles a thing of the past. Zintro wanted to know what our experts thought about this and how this move might affect the beverage industry.

Jim Goldman, a packaging, supply chain, and production technology expert in the beverage industry, says that the PlantBottle introduction by Coca-Cola comes after years of work and is the result of significant commitments to suppliers and research and development investment. “Plastic packaging plays a significant role in Coca-Cola’s portfolio,” says Goldman. “From the project’s beginning, the success criteria included the need for the new material to work seamlessly with both the existing bottle production infrastructure and the existing recycling infrastructure. And Coca-Cola is focused on maintaining the viability of the material for the foreseeable future.” Goldman points out that Coca-Cola sees it as essential that the company meet the packaging and infrastructure goals in order for the PlantBottle to be easily introduced as material supply grows and the product spreads to other brand names.

Raghavendran Badrinath, a director and owner of a food and beverage research and consulting firm in India, says that there has always been a historical battle between returnable glass bottles (RGBs) and other types of packaging, such as PET, cans and beverage delivery systems. “For decades, packaging has dominated due to wider distribution possibilities and higher volumes. Plant-based PET will no doubt impact the margins in the short run in certain markets,” says Badrinath. “However, it has yet to make a meaningful debut in many markets, and certainly not any time soon in developing markets.”

This introduction could start a debate on packaging costs of RGB versus other types. Coca-Cola derives a significant amount of volumes from RGBs and positive disproportionate profits from them; hence, future strategies could see a shift towards recycled/plant based packaging.

By Maureen Aylward

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