Certain beverage companies are shunning plastics and turning to glass bottles for a premium look and feel. In this report, Andreas Exarheas reveals detailed interviews with glass sector professionals and highlights a few of the latest glass bottled products.
The Ardagh Group operates 98 facilities in glass and metal packaging in 24 countries, globally. Ardagh Glass Europe head of marketing Sharon Crayton, answers some questions on the premium glass industry.
Sharon Crayton: We can see some interesting trends and dynamics here. While it is true that PET, metal and cartons have a large share of the sector, glass continues to win the support of brands because of its more premium perception, its natural quality and concern for health and safety, as well as its ability to project brand values of sustainability through a better recycling record. There is also clear evidence from research that consumers have a greater appreciation of these benefits.
Sharon Crayton: In the on- premise channel in Great Britain Coca-Cola is available in the glass icon contour bottle. The iconic 330ml bottle was lightweighted as the result of a series of incremental improvements, which have seen the weight reduce from 240g in 2005 to its current weight of 190g, while maintaining its quality and strength. Our lightweighting project also involved 330ml Sprite and Fanta bottles. The 200ml bottle has had its weight reduced in three stages during the same time-frame, from 170g in 2002, to 150g, and now to its current weight of 140g.
Our plants in Denmark and Sweden have recently produced two new soft drink bottles for Royal Unibrew for products that were previously packaged in PET. They report a modest growth in sales to the non-alcoholic sector, particularly for more premium products within organic RTD fruit syrups, smoothies and chocolate milk. This trend is also evident in Germany, which, unlike some other regions, still has a strong and growing returnables sector for beverages. Here it reports continued investment in glass by brand owners with some recently investing in their own premium branded returnable bottles. The German market is holding its own in some more niche areas such as fair trade iced teas and smoothies.
In the UK, innovation continues to play an important role in capturing more business for glass. Ardagh worked alongside leading bottled water brand Harrogate Water to produce the new ‘Diamond Bottles’ that proudly carry the England cricket logo and ‘Official Water of England Cricket’ copy on all new labels and packaging. The bottle, available in glass and plastic, was inspired by the classic architecture of Harrogate and has been designed to be instantly recognisable with premium appeal. The bottle’s diamonds disperse light to create a fresh, sparkling effect, particularly evident on the glass version. The elegant bottle is guaranteed to create exceptional stand out on shelf or back of bar, attracting new and existing customers to buy across the range. The cleverly engineered bottle is also extremely robust, the rigid diamond lattice providing strength as well as beauty.
Sharon Crayton: In spring the European container glass association, FEVE, announced the results of its latest and largest survey of European consumer attitudes towards packaging. Carried out by respected research company, Insites, on behalf of the consumer group Friends of Glass, it questioned over 8,000 consumers in 11 EU countries. The research showed that taste preservation is an important driver for consumers in choosing glass packaging, along with health and less impact on the environment. There were however variations from country to country.
We asked consumers to state the packaging in which they had bought their juices, water and soft drinks over the preceding three months. For soft drinks 17% was in glass, 42% in plastic, 11% in beverage can and 10% in cartons. For water it was 20% in glass and 62% in plastics, and for juices it was 22% glass, 25% plastic and 49% cartons – so there is plenty of volume still in glass.Above all, the survey showed a strong consumer desire (higher than that previously recorded from the 2011 survey) to have more products packaged in glass in their grocery stores. 59% of consumers questioned stated that they would choose to have their soft drinks in glass should they be available in that form of packaging. That figure rose to 60% for water and 61% for juices. Clearly there is a tangible demand building up here, and one that brand owners should take notice of.
Sharon Crayton: The research mentioned above gives us the scope to present a very confident and positive message to brand owners and retailers. Glass is highly inert, which is a very important consideration. With more attention being paid to the circular economy, glass has the best story to tell there as well. Add thanks to the massive achievements in lightweighting, and more flexibility in design from a shaping and decorative point of view, and glass represents a very formidable challenger to other materials.
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