It may be something that most people don’t even consider, but the packing material used for beverages is big business. There are many forms of packaging on the market, but which of these existing formats, if any, could become the dominant format in the future?
Glass may have started out as the most dominant packing material, but it then fell out of favour as lighter, less-breakable materials were developed. Although it’s still a favourite for certain drinks (such as wines and beers), soft drinks are rarely, if ever, packaged in glass bottles. There is an argument for the use of glass, as it is easy to recycle and can be re-used indefinitely without loss of integrity, but it is a heavy material that requires greater storage space and a lot of room on the shelves. From a practical point of view, this makes glass less attractive to the manufacturer who wants to maximise the units they can place.
There are various different plastics, but most drinks packagings are made of PET, which is as strong as it is light in weight. Such material is great for use in packaging machines, as it’s easy to vary design, low in cost and very light. For these reasons, PET is very popular, but although it is a relatively recent innovation, it is already starting to fall out of favour with consumers who are concerned about waste. Plastics cannot be recycled indefinitely.
Primarily aluminium or steel, the drinks cans industry is still booming. Unlike plastics that can be easily moulded into myriad shapes, drinks cans tend only to vary in height and width, with most conforming to a standard 330ml size. Aluminium is preferable to steel, since it is much lighter and more practical for use in factories. Metal is also easy to recycle, with each can being made from at least 50% recycled material.
Whether or not a clear winner will emerge, innovations will continue to be made and existing products improved. Companies buying packaging machines through packaging-machines.co.uk or similar will have to decide where their priority lies…
Is it in the sustainability of the planet, the ease with which design can be varied or with practicalities such as weight and ease of storage?