Please drink sustainably

7 December 2018



Earlier in the year, Carlsberg held a presentation on its latest sustainable innovations, including a new product that was being released simultaneously with the conference, in the UK and Norway. Mathew Rogerson was able to speak with Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, director of sustainability, and Håkon Langen, packaging innovation director, to learn more about the latest advances and groundbreaking innovations that the company has developed and released.


“There are a number of trends impacting beer packaging, but the one we see the most merit in is regarding sustainable packaging,” explains Simon Boas Hoffmeyer, director of sustainability at Carlsberg. “It is better for the consumer, the retailer, us as the manufacturer and our supply chain. Ultimately, we believe any type of pack can be more sustainable.”

The reason why this final point is so important links to the question: which material is the most sustainable in the packaging portfolio for Carlsberg? As it seems, from an uneducated perspective, that if beer is best recycled in glass or cans, it should, logically, all come in this format, thus ensuring high-recycling and sustainability rates. But this is a narrow view and misses some of the key points, as Håkon Langen, Carlsberg’s packaging innovation director, explains.

“There is not really a simple answer to the question of most prolific or ‘best’ sustainable material, as in the regions that we are active in, such as Western and Eastern Europe, and Asia, each region has its own preferences on pack size, shape, material and function. While a consumer in the UK might prefer the aluminium cans in the 500ml format, we might find that in Asia they are mostly interested in enjoying beer from glass bottles. There is no uniform global consumer, and so their interests are as varied and dynamic as they are themselves. What we need to do, therefore, rather than try to develop a ‘onesize- fits-all’ solution, which cannot work, is to work on making all the materials and packs that we work with more sustainable across our packaging mix.”

Pour me another

One example of this optimisation comes in Asia, where refillable glass bottles are widely used; as Langen explains, “Consumers return the bottle back to us or a partner, after which we wash and refill it, and send it back to be sold again. Even though this is an excellent process, and reduces the waste and energy consumption, we still felt there was more that could be done. The solution that has been implemented with out partners, Arkema, is a sort of wax that coats the bottles, reducing friction on the line and allowing for the glass bottles to circulate more times before they become scuffed and unsellable. By doing so, we reduce the life-cycle impact and create a better, more-circular packaging.”

“There are many roads to Rome,” says Hoffmeyer. “Whether the product contains radically less material, is reused or is widely recycled, these are all steps on the path to sustainable packaging. For example, cans are an ideal packaging format and contain a high recycled content, can be collected at high volumes and are infinitely recyclable.

Silver linings

One of the major innovations in 2018, which is also based on partnerships, in this case with an ink supplier, is the switch to Cradle-to-Cradle-certified inks at a silver level on its bottle labels so as to improve recyclability. “Printing inks have major impacts on the recyclability of packaging because often they are recycled along with paper fibres. To improve the recyclability of Carlsberg labels in selected markets, we are using the Hubergroup Eco-Offset Ink Premium Plus, which is Cradle-to-Cradle-certified at the silver level,” says Langen.

We have great hope for the future. Consumer need continues to indicate that they want to be part of a greener, cleaner future.
– Simon Boas Hoffmeyer

“Greener Green is the ink on our Carlsberg pilsner bottle labels, as well as some of our carton boxes, which is modified to meet Cradle-to-Cradlecertified standards for better recyclability. Traditional inks risk reducing the recyclability by adding suboptimal substances to the recycling process. This can mean that material gets lost in the recycling process, which is contrary to the circular economy, or closed-loop manufacturing, we would like to achieve. These inks simply enable better recycling by being fully defined and certified; better for us, the customer, the planet – better for all.”

Hoffmeyer agrees, explaining, “We really want to push the boundaries of the industry – where can we recycle more, apply more recycled materials and, in general, take waste out of the equation and so on. We are not just doing this for us; of course, we want to ensure commercial growth, but we believe it’s possible, or even vital, to ensure partnerships and widespread support across the supply chain in order to all rise together and provide sustainable packaging across the market. If we all make better packaging, it can only benefit everyone. There are no losers in an improved sustainable packaging or circular-economy supply chain.”

This brings us to the most recent innovation by the company: the Snap Pack. Describing the technology, Langen says, “To make our multipacks more sustainable, and find a better way to sell more beers at one time, we have introduced the Snap Pack, which reduces plastic usage through an innovative glue technology. Snap Pack uses minimal plastic and therefore reduces the risk of waste in the consumption market. Using less material also reduces CO2 emissions and reliance on fossil-fuelbased packaging materials, such as plastic. This is just one of the reasons why we feel it is better; it takes packaging reduction to the next level – we truly believe that less is more.

“Snap Pack also gives us the ability to have an aligned image across the face of the cans, as they are held in place. So a six-pack can have three cans facing the consumer with a much larger marketing message than just one can achieves. In addition, we reduce plastic use by up to 76% from the shrink film or rings that were previously used. This is a consumer- friendly sweet spot – commercially viable, great for the consumer, customer, Carlsberg, our suppliers and the planet.”

So far, the technology has been launched in the UK and Norway, but there is an expectation to be able to include further markets in due course, most likely during 2019. This drive towards a better tomorrow starts with the company’s CEO, with Cees ‘t Hart telling the market on the products launch, “We always strive to improve, and this launch clearly shows our ambition to follow in our founder’s footsteps towards a better tomorrow. Carlsberg’s Snap Pack will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste, and we look forward to giving our consumers better experiences with less environmental impact”.

Experience is one of the most highly valued aspects of the Carlsberg brand, which has always strove to deliver more than simply good tasting beer. And when it’s possible to tie a better experience to a commercial improvement, everyone benefits, as Hoffmeyer explains, “There will be 1,200t of plastic saved annually when all of our four, six and eight-packs have been converted to the Snap Pack system. Numbers can make it hard to understand or appreciate the sheer scale of these savings, but that 1,200t equals 60 million plastic bags. That’s 60 million bags that do not need to be made, that consumers do not have to worry about disposing of and do not end up littering or stuck in a waste management stream. It is a wonderful achievement, but we are not stopping here, we want to keep doing better.”

Probably the most recycled beer…

It is certainly an exciting time to be involved in sustainable packaging, and it looks like the future is full of positive developments and change. As Hoffmeyer says, “We have great hope for the future. Consumer need continues to indicate that they want to be part of a greener, cleaner future. They know that they want to make a difference, so it is up to us to provide them the tools to buy packaging that retains the quality product they expect from us, but with the ability to easily dispose of the product in its end of life. Sustainability has changed, and the old hierarchy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ now has a new addition: rethink.”

Rethinking starts with an examination of the ecological impact and economics across the full product life cycle – from manufacture through to use, reuse, recycling and disposal. The economic incentives for the various industry players must also be considered, including original equipment manufacturers, retailers, service providers, remanufacturers, recyclers and waste management companies. Every industry has a unique set of players; for each of them, the costs and benefits vary considerably, and are sometimes at odds. This insight provides a starting point for thinking strategically about reshaping the industry value chain in ways that increase profits while reducing environmental impact.

“Reducing our footprint, and continuing to show the ability to change and adapt, gives us the best chance to continue to deliver better experiences and the better world we offer through our ‘Together towards zero’ programme – which aims to achieve zero carbon emissions at our breweries by 2030,” says Hoffmeyer.

“There will be further updates on our Green Fibre Bottle, coming next year, and the innovations like Snap Pack will also continue to grow in coming years. We like to partner with and encourage our entire supply chain to rise with us, as we are all after the same sustainable future, and by working with each other we can achieve the scale of change needed to ensure sustainable development. For us, packaging innovation is the most important lever to decarbonise our value chain, and with this, reduce energy costs, reduce risk and offer consumers more sustainable products. “

Ultimately, as Langen concludes, “The trends we see in packaging, now and in the future, such as convenience, portability, premiumisation and customisation, can all be improved with sustainable packaging developments. Retail customers are addressing consumer need and require more innovation from us to help them develop better products. For our ambitions with ’Together towards zero’ to work, we need partnerships and relationships across the supply chain and market to continue to create these groundbreaking innovations, all while still retaining the core quality and experience of drinking a Carlsberg beer.”

The future is bright as Carlsberg continues to move to being one of the market-leading innovators in beer and packaging. And rather than resting on its laurels with each new innovation, it is committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

Carlsberg’s new Snap Pack multipack packaging, which uses minimal plastic.
The aims of Carlsberg’s industry-leading ‘Together towards zero’ programme.
Carlsberg Pilsner bottles are printed with inks that are Cradle-to-Cradle-certified at the silver level.


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