Latest trends and innovations in beverage packaging

27 April 2018

Beverage Packaging Innovation draws multiple brand-owner perspectives together from various sectors. Questions were asked about the latest innovations, sustainable activities and trends that they have come across.

Beverage Packaging Innovation: What are the top trends that you have seen in beverage packaging?

E Matsui: The three top trends we saw at Kirin Holdings in 2017 included the increasing fusion of design and function, so that the packaging has a purpose and adds value. The second was sustainable packaging for the environment; packaging needs to be good for the environment, structurally better and sustainable. Last but not least, we saw great importance being given to innovative production. If we provide new ways of creating the product or package, then we can not only support the other two trends, but can also match our customers’ needs without wasting resources.

Ivan Menezes: Across the group, the two leading trends we have seen are much talked about. Millennial consumers are always multitasking, scanning and filtering, and are very experimental, experiential and category transient with varied repertoires. They are also digitally savvy and connected to large virtual communities, but still have a strong quest to be individual, in order to define their own success. They are looking for brands that break the mould, and stick to their strong and authentic core values.

Simon Knapp: We view packaging as being a vital part in supporting the dominant trend for gifting in travel retail. This is an enormous opportunity, even if the consumer is buying the gift for themselves. To be on trend, the products we offer should ideally, and as often as possible, be gift worthy.

Another trend is the premiumisation of spirits, which in turn comes back to support the gifting drive; we are able to not only enhance the perceived value of the product, but also to gift it so that it further increases the value for the recipient, as well as the premium feel and credentials of the brand. I think that there are loads of opportunities, particularly for us at Beam Suntory. We are still relatively young in this market, but the company is driving a lot of growth across all spirit categories. We are also seeing strong double-digit growth, particularly in US Whiskies.

Who influences your packaging decisions – consumers, the government or clients?

EM: When it comes to packaging decisions, consumers have the most influence over our actions; consumer need drives packaging innovation and development. We want them to buy our product, so we must listen to them when they tell us what they need.

IM: Consumers will have the most impact, particularly given the enormous market growth forecast. We expect 500 million new legal drinking age consumers to come to the market over the next decade; India and Africa will account for half of this figure. Approximately 730 million more consumers will be able to afford international-style spirits, and 85% of that growth will come from emerging markets. And finally, spirits penetration in many emerging markets is still low when compared with developed markets; however, there is still plenty of opportunity for growth if we can attract this kind of market.

SK: We have a role alongside the retailers to bring more people into stores, to turn shoppers into buyers by giving them the experiences and products they want. We need to listen more to consumers because I think what they want is changing, and companies should work with them to understand what it is that they specifically want. Our offering will be better by tapping into this.

What is new for sustainability?

EM: Kirin is very accomplished at being able to measure its results, and has a number of recent packaging examples to support the company’s commitment to sustainable packaging innovation. We follow life-cycle analysis methods and measure CO2 emissions to ensure effective measurement. We have seen a number of recent developments, including the lightweight-returnable and one-way glass bottles in Japan. The lightest 2L PET water bottle in Japan comes in at 28.9g, while the lightest 211 can body and 204 can end shapes have been reduced down to 13.8g. All of this means that we are constantly reducing our emissions and material consumption across Kirin’s entire packaging range.

Melanie Felgate: Climate change and the environmental burden of plastic waste have become major global issues, with beverage manufacturers and coffee chains under growing pressure to reduce the number of plastic bottles and paper cups going to landfill sites. Recent figures predicted that the global consumption of plastic bottles will exceed a staggering half a trillion a year by 2021. Although such schemes rely on behavioural change, the recent success of the plastic carrier bag levy in UK supermarkets proved that consumers are willing and able to adjust. Indeed, Tesco has reportedly handed out 1.5 billion fewer plastic carrier bags since the £0.05 charge was introduced in 2015.

Klaus Hartwig: Our packaging is an ambassador of our brands and we always look to support iconicity, premiumisation and convenience in all needed shapes and sizes. As well as the protection of our product and convenience for our consumers, responsible packaging in our plastics affords lightweighting and recycling post-consumer packaging; however, collection rates in many countries need to be improved.

We ensure 100% recyclability for our packages, and work with communities and associations to help to increase collection rates. Bio-based materials are an important focus for us; our objective is to use third-generation bioplastics from non-food feedstocks. So far, there has not been any proven environmental value added by using biodegradable polymers.Environmentally wise, it is preferred to collect and recycle material than to have it degrade.

Valentina Lina: At Concha y Toro, we make sustainability one of the distinguishing features of the company. That is to say, we consider it to be an attribute and an area where we want to make a difference. Today, sustainability is a way of doing business that enables you to ensure that a company is going to endure over time by incorporating external factors as part of that process. This makes companies more resilient, and prepares them for the environmental and social changes that are occurring in their markets. It’s a reason for being that goes beyond simply generating profits.

Packaging is essential in the wine industry because it represents the way that the product reaches the consumer’s table, which may not be the case for other products. In our case, packaging is not an additional element, but a central component of the product. Given the characteristics of our products, glass is the most common type of packaging used. This material is more environmentally friendly than others, and we’ve continued to strengthen our product portfolio with glass. That said, there are some markets, such as the Nordic countries, where the bag in box format has been growing in use compared with others. We will always use the best material for the purposes of the local market and consumers, provided it fits with the sustainability programme.

Simon Boas Hoffmeyer: Our new programme, Together Towards ZERO, is a response to global challenges, such as climate change, water scarcity and public health. It is driven by the company’s purpose of brewing for a better today and tomorrow. We believe that making brewing more sustainable will benefit our company and the societies where we operate. This is something that has been part of who we are as a business since our founders created the company, and has evolved over decades of beer brewing and engagement with stakeholders inside and outside our breweries – so yes, I guess you can say that this is part of our DNA. Carlsberg is very proud of its track record when it comes to sustainability. The company aims not to emit any carbon emissions from its breweries by 2030, and to reach an interim milestone of reducing these by 50% in 2022. This will definitely not be an easy feat; however, we believe that it is the right thing to do for the business and society. It will require several investments in new technology, employee behaviour and ways of working.

Some of the activities we will employ include improving energy efficiency, following best practice in energy management; sourcing 100% renewable power by using physical and market-based instruments, including solar polar and certificates that guarantee origin; using renewable fuels for heat generation, such as sustainable biomass from rice husks, wood chips or spent grains; making surplus low-carbon energy available to local communities for heat and power grids for electricity; and counteracting residual carbon emissions with recognised carbon-offsetting projects.”

How are your businesses using packaging materials to help to support, or even enhance, sustainability efforts?

Satvinder Dhillon: We are constantly looking for ways to improve the materials we use and environmental impact of the packaging that we produce. There has to be a balance between consumer need and the technology available.

At the moment, many consumers understand why they recycle, and that it is easy for them to conveniently dispose of their plastic bottles in an appropriate recycling stream. Our consumer insight tells us that what consumers are concerned about is the environment and reducing the waste to landfill or litter levels.

We are always researching and evaluating the benefits of biodegradable bottles, similar technologies, and how we can keep the quality and taste that consumers expect from our products housed in the most responsible package that can make it through our supply chain to consumers. There is still room to improve, but we need to ensure that the bottle retains integrity – and this type of compromise must be worked out at every level across the company’s packaging portfolio.

Eric Näf: Any packaging optimisation comes with considering a lot of different factors, including transportation effects, shelf life and functionality. This will always create debate, pressure and opportunities to come out with packages that meet as many targets as possible. A key point not is also being able to communicate a pack’s benefits or a company’s rationales in a good way. The industry must never stop improving in terms of material use, but it must look at the entire life cycle of packaging, including recycling systems.

We believe that the main source of innovation will come from bio-based plastic packaging, as the process and materials continue to improve and the industry goes on to benefit.

Frédéric Jouin: Since the creation of DPRC, its main purpose has been to bring consumers added value with high-performance packaging in every country, as well as to propose sustainable packaging solutions. Sustainability is the guiding influence, and leads to our support of activities, such as the NaturALL Bottle Alliance with Nestlé Waters, which will provide an innovative plastic that is also sustainable, addressing two key areas at once. Packaging materials have the fundamental ability to enhance or improve the end result for consumers, clients and the planet. We are always considering what material is best to use in the context of environment, our sustainability mandates and for the consumer experience.

What do you think the future holds?

EM: In the next two to five years, we believe that the main source of innovation will come from bio-based plastic packaging, as the process and materials continue to improve and the industry goes on to benefit from this. Within biodegradable plastic packaging, the next big thing will be solving the microbead problem. For the wider food and packaging market, extending expiration dates and finding effective solutions to food loss and waste problems globally will be key issues.

Sarah Dearman: Ultimately, Coca- Cola’s goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of its packaging. To help manage and understand these impacts, we will continue to conduct life-cycle assessments on our packaging. We also partner with organisations, such as World Wildlife Fund and the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance. Additionally, we leverage valuable resources and collaboration opportunities, including the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. We will also continue in our development and refinement of the PlantBottle, which is a fully recyclable PET package that is made partially from plants. It’s continuing to roll out across our portfolio and is currently making up about a third of our PET packaging in the US. We also feel that the current focus on marine litter for plastics will continue to be front and centre for many consumers in the immediate future.

Can you tell us about an example of an innovation that your company has recently launched?

EM: As well as keeping a close eye on sustainable methods and development, innovation plays a key role in a leading brand like Kirin, especially in Japan’s highly competitive beverage market. Our most recent innovation was a four-tap beer dispenser with 3L PET bottles called Tap Marché. This dispenses four craft beers simultaneously with one machine; we developed this dispenser to save space by replacing the need for using separate 3L PET bottles. Eating and drinking establishments can select craft beers from multiple lines, so consumers can make a variety of choices to pair food with craft beers. Changing the selection that consumers have enables them to experience a variety of taste pairings, providing a unique and personalised experience. Tap Marché’s name reflects the feel of a supermarket – and the range of choice and flavours it offers. Its newly adopted 3L PET container can also be used to protect and sell multiple craft beer varieties. The product was rolled out from April 2017 and has been very successful.

IM: We continue to invest in packaging technology to add more differentiation to innovation. Recent examples include Smirnoff Red Label white and berry flavoured vodka – which used three surface print techniques to create a realistic frozenice look – and Bailey’s Pumpkin Spice, which used printable-holographic foil on a shrink sleeve – a first for the alcohol industry in the US. Lazy Bear by Bundaberg was another example that launched in Australia in 2017; it combines the brand’s rum, dry ginger ale, and a splash of soda and natural lime.

The beverage broke the category’s rules by being positioned next to beer in stores, and it has been the biggest Australian premix launch of the past five years. Our market research found that there was an opportunity to make a ready-to-drink premixed Vodka that was not overly sweet and artificially flavoured, leading to the creation of Smirnoff Pure. There is nothing to hide in this bottle, just vodka and natural ingredients. It was launched in October of the same year and is now the number two ready-to-drink innovation in Australia.

EN: Absolut has introduced a refined version of its iconic bottle that has seen the company achieve a 13% reduction in weight. Another innovation is the Absolut Facet bottle, which won a number of awards in 2017. The glass bottle has an asymmetrical shape that catches attention on the shelf, busy bars and even in dimly lit locations.

MF: Coca-Cola’s microchipped-bottle trial in the UK could pave the way for a shift in plastic bottle-use habits among a significant cohort of consumers, according to GlobalData. This has seen Coca-Cola European Partners install its popular freestyle fountain dispensing machines on campus at the University of Reading. Rather than purchasing their drinks in the usual disposable plastic bottles, staff and students are able to prepay for a set number of refills, which are then dispensed into a microchipped refillable bottle that is linked to a student’s account.

SK: One key area where we are seeing a lot of innovation is in the use of technology, such as activations. In 2016, our Bowmore Scotch whisky activation gave people the opportunity to virtually go to the No.1 Vaults. This was the first spirit virtual reality experience in Dubai Duty Free; we then had 43 activations across Europe running at the same to maintain consistency.

We wanted the packaging to enhance our message as the go-to product for consumers who are looking for a premium beer experience – and the new packaging perfectly represents this.

Future plans cover the cognac industry, which is quite a challenging sector for market players. What we are trying to do is add to our exisitng very special, very superior old pale (VSOP) and extra old cognacs by introducing a couple of new products. There will be one on the gifting side that will be a travel-retail exclusive lantern pack, which is basically a VSOP in a really nice package. The other thing we want to do is recruit more people into the cognac category, so we are also launching Courvoisier Sherry Cask, which has already won an award for its packaging.

Matt Leadbeater: We are celebrating the festive season with a limited edition Christmas design across varying formats that features a gold star across packs. The four-pack tote is designed to provide a new unwrapping ‘ritual’, with an easy-open tab running around the centre of the pack. The rounded edges and curves create a sleek, premium aesthetic while the eye-catching red handle makes it easier to carry the tote from the store to the home or seasonal gatherings. We wanted the packaging to enhance our message as the go-to product for consumers who are looking for a premium beer experience – and the new packaging perfectly represents this. Stella Artois is synonymous with Christmas.

Andrew Turner: Lambrini has just launched its limited edition trio of winter wraps. Our latest innovation is a seasonal-themed sleeve that features Christmas decorations, including snowflakes, cherries, bows and ribbons. This new design aims to create a unique shelf presence, giving retailers the opportunity to boost sales during one of the most important periods of the year. The new limited edition packaging will improve on-shelf visibility, encouraging purchasing intent, and attracting loyal fans and new customers to the brand in the run up to the season. It is a great way of communicating the brand’s credentials at the point of purchase, and reinforces its positioning to add a sparkle to social occasions through eye-catching, decorative and personalised packaging design techniques, which are perfect for the party season.


The experts

  • Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, the director of sustainability at Carlsberg
  • Sarah Dearman, sustainable packaging programme director at The Coca-Cola Company
  • Satvinder Dhillon, head of packaging development at Lucozade Ribena Suntory
  • Melanie Felgate, senior consumer insight analyst at GlobalData
  • Klaus Hartwig, head of R&D for Nestlé Waters
  • Frédéric Jouin, director of Danone’s Packaging Research Centre (DPRC)
  • Simon Knapp, commercial director at Beam Suntory
  • Matt Leadbeater, senior brand manager, Stella Artois, which is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev
  • Valentina Lina, sustainable development manager at Concha y Toro
  • E Matsui, planning the packaging division in R&D for Kirin Holdings\
  • Ivan Menezes, chief executive at Diageo
  • Eric Näf, director packaging development, The Absolut Company
  • Andrew Turner, wine director at Halewood Wines & Spirits

Carlsberg is focusing on making brewing more sustainable, in order to benefit the company and the planet.
Tap Marché dispenses four craft beers at the same time.
Beam Suntory’s Courvoisier Sherry Cask has already won an award for its packaging.
Lambrini’s festive designs.

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