Oil-free packaging makes its mark in bottled water industry

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th July 2008

The introduction of more environmentally-friendly packaging is beginning to lead to changes in the beverage industry, particularly within the bottled water sector.

Traditionally plastic bottles have been made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a petroleum-based plastic,  but new options are beginning to crop up. One such example is made from Ingeo, a plant based natural plastic.

NatureWorks LLC, the makers of Ingeo, claim that if all plastic PET beverage bottles made from crude oil sold today in the US were instead made from Ingeo plastic, Americans would save the equivalent of a billion gallons of gas each year. It is reportedly also more environmentally efficient, as it requires 68 per cent less fossil resources and emits 80-90% less greenhouse gases than a traditional petroleum-based bottle, according to NatureWorks.

American based Primo Water was the first US bottled water company to use the Ingeo corn based packaging and Eco-Water has now made a similar commitment. The first to embrace the new packaging, however, was UK-based Belu Water. They are credited as the first bottled water company to become carbon neutral and their success since launching in 2004 epitomises the potential for profitability from embracing the “environmentally friendly movement”.

The expansion of such companies can be attributed with the fact that they have product differentiation in a sector where there is very little. The bottled water industry, which has come under attack in some quarters for not being environmentally friendly, has witnessed a number of interesting alternatives enter the market in recent years to provide differentiation. Examples of which include extensive varieties of flavoured water and even ‘holy water’ options – which seek to promote the product on the basis that it has either been blessed by a Catholic priest or has religious imagery on the packaging.

Billy Prim, President and CEO of Primo Water, suggests that utilisation of the new packaging was in response to consumer demand. “We listened to consumer feedback about our test bottle and redesigned the shape to give shoppers the look and feel they want in a sleek, ergonomic package that fits their busy lifestyles,” he reported. “We reduced our package weight, cap size and label, all in response to consumer demand to keep our packaging as environmentally-friendly as possible.”