Jean-Pierre Deffis, president of the European Federation of Bottled Waters. ©FBIF
The president of the European Federation of Bottled Waters (EFBW) believes its target of collecting 90% of its PET plastic bottles by 2025 is “key” for the future of its category.
Speaking at the Food & Beverage Innovation Forum in Hangzhou, Jean-Pierre Deffis said the federation is “very concerned” about marine litter.
Last year, EFBW members committed to collecting 90% of all PET bottles by 2025 as an EU average, ensuring discarded plastic containers can be converted into rPET.
They are also collaborating with the recycling industry to use at least 25% rPET in new bottles by 2025.
“We have very big challenges in terms of circular economy and especially about packaging,” Deffis said. “We are under criticism about the packaging because we are using a lot of plastic bottles.”
He added: “We think the best solution is not to get rid of the bottled water but get rid of poor results in terms of collection. Because if our bottles are not well-collected then we can’t recycle the bottles and we have a lot of waste. The big debate is how to improve these collection rates.”
EFBW has a membership of 23 national trade associations, seven direct member companies – including Danone, Nestlé Waters and San Benedetto – as well as different scientific and research institutions.
While some European countries already collect more than 90% of all plastic bottles, others collect less than 20%, requiring a joint effort by industry and authorities to reach the target.
Deffis said: “On a European basis, the federation, we give a kind of toolkit to the countries and to the companies but we can’t manage the connection with the government, with the politicians, with the administration, with the municipalities, with the retailers, because you have a lot of people to take into account, you have many stakeholders all around.
“If you are to go from one system to the other, it takes time, it takes a lot of work and a lot of complexity because it’s not that easy to get rid of the past and go into a new system. From a federation point of view, we give a toolkit, we coordinate, we try to push; personally, I am pushing a lot the countries and the members to improve their figures and results.”
Despite the significant sustainability challenges, EFBW sees strong growth opportunities in the premium bottled water market. According to food and drink consultancy Zenith Global, sales of premium bottled water globally reached $16.5 billion at consumer prices in 2017, 48% more than five years previously. Consumption volume increased 26% over the five years to 11.2 billion litres.
“For me, the biggest potential is in the premium market by far,” said Deffis. “The difficulty in the premium strategy is to have built in the past a brand equity. A brand equity comes from history, from heritage and from a long time developing a sustainable strategy in terms of product, environment and also marketing.
“When you have done that, when you have achieved that, when you are sure your brand has sufficient equity and a good image and a good positioning, then you can have the ambition to put in the market a high-value brand with, of course, higher prices. And as a consequence, then you have the possibility thereafter to invest more money not only in marketing but also in developing new packaging, which is, for us, key.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019