Sustainability has been and continues to be a top packaging trend in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. In response to consumer demand, companies are frequently testing more sustainable packaging products and spearheading initiatives to increase the use of recycled packaging materials and reduce or outright eliminate “single-use” packaging. Below are specific areas in which sustainability investments have increased, specifically CPG beverages’ packaging.

Sustainability Reigned Supreme in 2018

Consumers are looking for companies that are actually investing in sustainability, not just donating to non-profit organizations. Proving that 2018 was the “Year of the Sustainable Consumer,” recent studies indicate that consumers are more likely to do research on their product choices and purchase from companies that have healthy ingredients and/or are investing in the environment.

For example, a  2018 Nielsen survey found that “Nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment,” and at the forefront of this movement are millennial consumers. The same study found that “Millennials are twice as likely (75% vs. 34%) than Baby Boomers to say they are definitely or probably changing their habits to reduce their impact on the environment,” proof of their “healthy for me, healthy for the world” lifestyle.

Glass Bottle Packaging Continues to Rise

Future Market Insights reports continued demand for glass bottles until at least 2022.  Findings from the report indicate consumers see glass bottles as a more eco-friendly solution to plastic since they are 100% recyclable and can be recycled multiple times.

In addition, consumers apparently believe both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages taste better when packaged in glass. In a 2017 EcoFocus survey, 90% of consumers favored glass bottles to plastic and aluminum for better preservation of taste flavor.

Innovative Packaging Solutions Sans Plastic

A study conducted by Euromonitor International estimated that “63% of global packaging across the food, beverage, beauty, home care, and pet food industries are currently made from plastic,” but this continues to decline. In the past five years, countries have banned or taxed the use of plastic products to encourage the use of reusable and recyclable materials. In the United States, California, for example, was the first state to completely ban plastic bags. Urban cities have since followed California’s lead, including Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon.  As a result, companies are creating new, innovative packaging solutions to comply with new regulations and assume a leadership position in sustainable packaging initiatives.

For example, Carlsberg, a European alcoholic beverage company, has taken its sustainability roadmap to the next level. Called “Together Towards Zero,” the brand’s sustainability program strives to eliminate the carbon footprint in its breweries by 2030, and the development team at Carlsberg recently created glued packaging to completely eliminate packaging wastes for their multipack beer. The brand’s vice president of product development, Myriam Shingleton, hopes glued packaging will become the norm for all beverage multipacks, and she intends to share the development of Carlsberg’s new multipacks with other companies. “It’s a global problem and we are very happy we are at the front end to propose that,” states Shingleton. “As always in Carlsberg, we will not keep this for ourselves.”

Another European alcoholic beverage company, Diageo, is taking positive steps toward decreasing its’ waste production, investing millions to cut its carbon footprint. Case in point: Guinness, one of Diageo’s brands, has completely scrapped plastic packaging for multipacks of beer. Guinness multipacks are now cardboard, and they no longer include the plastic loops, making them fully recyclable. Shares David Cutter, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer and president of global supply and procurement, “Consumers expect our packs to look beautiful, be functional, and sustainable.”

Product Transparency and Packaging Sustainability Both Key to Success

Consumers have access to so much more information than years past, which means product transparency is an essential ingredient to success in 2019. If consumers know a brand is investing profits to improve a product’s sustainability, they’re more willing to purchase that product. Major CPG brands need to invest in sustainable packaging solutions to show that they talk the talk and walk the walk. Packaging technologies can help play a small role in a company’s sustainability strategy through process and logistical improvements, but identifying new and recyclable substrates will continue to drive packaging sustainability initiatives and innovation.

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