Just a decade ago, only soft drinks were bottled in PET packaging in Russia, but today it is used for products as diverse as beer, edible oils, milk and juices. Indeed, according to a recent study by the Information Technologies Fund (ITF), PET is now by far the most popular choice for brewers and soft drink producers, both large and small.
As a result of this steady increase in demand, PET bottle production in Russia is now becoming increasingly popular. In 2000, Russian companies imported preformed PET bottles worth $13 billion, according to ITF, but local production is much more cost effective than importing bottles from western Europe, not least because many Russian equipment suppliers are able to provide the machinery for a fraction of the cost. China and Poland are other popular suppliers of low-cost machinery, but there is still a steady stream of more expensive equipment from Germany, France and Canada. The biggest importers of high quality PET bottle machinery in the 1990s were international soft drinks players such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo and the leading brewing groups such as Interbrew. The main suppliers of equipment were Sidel, SIPA, Simonasi and SASIB.
Among Russia's leading producers of PET technology are Europlast and Master Group. Europlast makes more than 1 billion PET preforms each year, and offers the widest range of bottle shapes and sizes. Master Group has three factories - in Moscow, Rostov on Don and Cheleabinsk - and makes about 800 million preforms a year under the Optimum brand.
PET continues to grow in popularity. In 1999, for example, it accounted for 7-10 per cent of Russian beers, 60-65 per cent of non-alcoholic drinks and 55-60 per cent of mineral waters; by 2000 this figure had risen to 17-23 per cent for beer, 75-80 per cent for soft drinks and 70-75 per cent for mineral water.
The rate of growth has slowed, however. In 2003, the beer industry used 1.3 billion PET bottles, a figure which is expected to rise to 1.5 billion in 2005. Soft drink usage will increase from 1.6 to 1.8 billion, while 1.2 billion PET bottles will be used for mineral water in 2005, up from 1 billion in 2003.Mineral water in particular looks set to drive the growth in PET usage in the future, primarily because there is little in the way of competition and room for many new entrants before the market reaches saturation point.
But the biggest issue likely to affect the development of the market is recycling. With billions of PET bottles on the market, and no efficient recycling system in place as yet, fears of an ecological disaster caused by dumping are increasing.