Market research group Canadean looks at the rise of the PET
THE global soft drinks market is supported by a rich profusion of packaging choices to satisfy all manner of consumer groups.
It is not just the available range of packaging materials that is extensive but also container shapes and sizes. Yet, in an era of growing environmental concern, it seems that more and more of these packages are, surprisingly, becoming one trip throwaways. For some pack options, such as board cartons and metal cans, disposal after a single use is the only practical solution. But this is not the case for glass and PET bottles, both of which can, realistically, be re-used.
In the USA, before World War II, nearly all soft drinks were sold in refillable glass bottles, which were used as many as fifty times. But, their share declined from 100% in1940 to less than 1% in 2000. Refillable glass is still employed elsewhere in the world, particularly Asia, Latin America and Western Europe, but total volumes are barely increasing whilst the post recessionary soft drinks market is still managing to expand by between 3-5% per annum, according to Canadean.
Much of the movement away from refillable glass and, indeed refillable containers in general, has to do with the rise of the PET bottle, patented in 1973, and now a favourite of the sift drinks industry. The plastic is versatile, resilient, offers good product clarity, and provides consumer convenience plus excellent potential for brand differentiation.
Refillable PET bottles are available but their application is somewhat limited; nonexsistent in many countries, popular in Central America, for example. But refillable PET bottles still outsell their one-way counterparts here and are growing at a faster pace. Despite environmental concerns, Norway is the only country where refillable holds a stronger position than non-refillable PET.
There are a number of reasons why refillable packaging is fading, including the economic cost of setting up and maintaining refillable systems, as well as retailer reluctance in supporting the concept. Then there is the potential problem of bottle contamination due to earlier consumer misuse, brand image issues caused by scuffing, blemishes and general wear and tear together with the fact that one way bottles present greater flexibility in respect of changing pack design.
Instead, producers have followed an environmentally friendly road by reducing the thickness of their plastic, or by the introduction of more bio-degradable bottles. The race is now on to commercialize a fully biodegradable plastic bottle.