Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Beverage Industry

With environmental concerns at the forefront, it’s imperative that companies offer their products in sustainable packaging. Not only do customers demand it, but legislation is also changing. If beverage companies want to stay competitive, they need to embrace more sustainable ways of packaging and selling their products. 


The aisles of the beverage section of grocery stores are filled with brands advertising recyclability to their consumers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 the recycling rate of PET bottles and jars was 29 percent. There is a lot of potential here for improvement especially considering plastic bottles are accepted through most, if not all, curbside recycling programs in the United States. Other materials have similar stories. Companies are tapping into this recycling potential by designing for recycling and including a How2Recycle label on their packages.

PCR Content

Another sustainable packaging trend in the beverage industry is the increased use of recycled content. Post-consumer recycled content is growing in popularity as it can help reduce the environmental impact of packages while also utilizing a product that is traditionally a waste product. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is at the forefront of this trend and for good reason, it is one of the easiest plastics to recycle. With little to no contamination present, PET can be recycled many times as a result of the recycling process not damaging the polymer chain. PCR plastics are recycled from once-existing plastic bottles and other plastic items. Using PCR content helps to support the demand for sustainable packaging from consumers, reduce the amount of single-use plastic in landfills, and increase profitability for MRFs and reprocessors. Recycling these materials into other packaging materials can cut back on the need for 100% virgin plastic beverage containers. There are around 30 billion bottles of water being sold every year in the United States alone, there is a serious need for increasing the usage of PCR materials. Using PCR content in food and beverage packaging comes with a few challenges. The reheating process required for PCR content alters the color or transparency of plastic. However, if a product doesn’t require a clear package, this isn’t an issue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) regulates the use of PCR content in plastic food packaging. We advise interested brands to view the U.S. FDA website for more information. 

Packaging Ideas on the Rise for Beverages

Consumers and legislation are driving the demand for sustainable packaging in the beverage industry. Designing for recycling and increasing the use of PCR content in beverage packaging are well-known trends in the industry. Here are a few trends on the rise.
With millennials demanding more from all aspects of their lives, from customer service to packaging and the products within, the beverage industry is no expectation.  This demand for premiumization of beverages covers everything from the flavor, healthier ingredients, and attractive and sustainable packaging. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are becoming more geared towards people who demand more and don’t mind paying for them.
Smart Packaging
There are two types of smart packaging. Active packaging and intelligent packaging. Active packaging is packaging that interacts with the contents and helps to improve the shelf life or quality of the contents. Either certain substances are released or removed from the packaging. Active ingredients are added to the packaging while being made or after product production to help the contents remain fresher, longer. This could be a plastic bottle with an oxygen absorber in the screw cap, or film packaging with ethylene absorbers.  Intelligent packaging is something that can keep track of the contents and let the consumer know what is happening with it. Time of packaging, the freshness of the contents, temperature, or other useful information.  These indicators or sensors can let people know if the product is okay, how long you have until it needs to be used, or whether it is past its expiration date. These can be sensors added on, chips for certain products, and other LED barcodes. 
Tethered Caps
Another way to reduce small and potentially dangerous pieces of plastic is the tethered cap. These are lids on bottles that remain on the bottle when opened, during use, and after disposal. This helps many of these errant caps ending up where they shouldn’t. They are recycled with the bottle, so there is no need for them to be separated and no extra material is needed for them to be made, either. They can be used on many types of bottles and there are no technical adjustments needed for manufacturing.

Beverage Packaging

With consumers and regulations being the driving force, many beverage companies are embracing more sustainable ways of packaging and selling their products. Water comes in boxes, beer comes in paper bottles, and recycled plastics are being used for different products. While designs like the tethered cap are on the rise. All of which is movement in the right direction. Trayak has been helping leading brands of all sizes make data-driven sustainability decisions for over 10 years. If you would like to learn more about our tools and services please contact us.

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