Innovative beverage packaging to assist beverage manufacturers in dealing with the downturn

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th October 2008

With the world on the brink of a global downturn and a further intensification of competition likely between products and brands, there is more and more pressure on beverage manufacturers to differentiate their brands through radically different and innovative packaging materials and design.

As market conditions have deteriorated over the last 18 months, pressure on margins, coupled with highly volatile energy and materials costs and increasing environmental pressures, have shifted the focus of packaging design more towards cost-driven factors such as weight saving, material reduction, production line efficiency, cost-effectiveness and environmental performance as well as added functionality and retained quality.

These are the key findings of a new special interest report, “Innovation in Beverage Packaging, 2008”, published by beverage market analysts Canadean.

The trend towards more cost-driven design – and light-weighting in particular – was established to be apparent across virtually all packaging materials, types and components:

* In glass bottles, for example, the development of narrow neck and blow technology is bringing both pack and distribution costs down with 20% pack weight savings being reported
* PET bottles are also benefiting from the development of new substantially lower weight standard containers – such as Amcor’s ‘No Bottle’ product and also panel-less hot fill containers which offer similar flexibility in design to hot fill glass bottles, but with substantial weight savings
* New lightweight end technology is driving down average beverage can weights even further, whilst a move from impact extrusion to DWI-based production is boosting the presence of lighter weight beverage cans
* Lightweight closures have similarly been developed by many suppliers and are already deployed for carbonates and soft drinks
* Even label sizes are being reduced to reduce costs and improve environmental sustainability of the product

Not all recent innovations in beverage packaging design are focused on cost, however. There has also been a substantial expansion in the use of newer substrates (such as RPET, PLA and other biodegradable plastics, barrier films and pouches), whilst innovative packaging shapes and designs aimed at specific target consumers (e.g. shaped, sleek/slim and embossed cans), improvements in decoration techniques (such as the use of thermo-chromatic and UV sensitive inks, barrier shrink sleeves and high quality digital printing) and the introduction of value added functional features such as re-closeable can ends and pouches designed for vending applications, are all expected to continue to have an important bearing on the future market.

Taken in combination these factors mean that, in spite of the widely-expected downturn, packaging innovation and design will remain at the forefront of marketing and brand development and play a key role in determining the success or failure of new products and brands over the next 5 years, the Canadean report suggests.