Dispatches from Anuga FoodTec 2009

Germans shaking some PET pack concerns - industry

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pet bottles, Recyclable materials, Coffee, Germany

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is generally succeeding in meeting German concerns regarding sustainable consumer packaging and should continue to increase in use until 2025, claim a group supplying the material.

As the food and beverage industry gathers this week for the Anuga FoodTec​show​in Cologne, Germany, the PET industry is pressing its own credentials alongside the event with the 2009 PETnology Europe meeting.

The two-day show, which finished in Cologne yesterday, argued that the negative image associated with PET bottles has been cast aside by efforts to improve recycle rates and functionality.

Although PET is used for a variety of food, beverage and non-food applications, the suppliers claim that 85 per cent of the polymer can be found in bottles. Looking ahead though, suppliers of the polymer suggest that further opportunities may be available through ongoing innovation into the polymer’s use.

Just last month, the​Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), called for an end to the industry labelling certain packaging types as simply ‘green’ or ‘non-green’ options. The UK-based non-profit organisation claimed that food and drink makers should instead focus on specific potential benefits of materials to their own operations.

Plastic demand

The PET industry used this year’s event, the twelfth of its kind to take place, to suggest that the relatively low weight of its plastic polymers could have a number of benefits for retailers and consumers alike.

“In today's reusable PET soft-drink bottles, the packaging makes up less than five per cent of the gross weight,”​ stated PETnology’s organisers.​Furthermore, the lightweight bottle is very sturdy and thus resistant to breakage.”

Citing figures from the German Association for Plastic Packaging and Films, PETnology said that 40 per cent of materials now used for packaging were plastics.

The same figures suggested that in terms of beverage bottles, 38 per cent of these packs contained PET, according to the event organisers.

Diversification

According to the German mineral water association, Genossenschaft Deutscher Brunnen (GDB), the potential benefits of PET for soft drink suppliers have been increasingly noticed within the country during 2008.

However, figures set to be made available at the meeting suggest that on the German market at least, there has been limited success in expanding the use of PET bottles for products like beer.

The organisers said that only 11 per cent of beer sold in the country was currently kept in PET bottles, though there was potential for further growth.

“The discount stores in particular are using PET containers as a substitute for the beverage can, which was removed from shelves because of the deposit on recyclable cans in Germany,”​ stated PETnology.

In terms of using PET in other segments, the event organisers claimed that the polymer was making inroads in the market for milk-based products. The group suggested that German consumers were increasingly open to buying drinkable yoghurts and whey drinks in packaging derived from the material.

“The experts in this segment agree that the PET bottles are the key engine of market growth for drinkable yoghurts and milk-based beverages because they offer superior convenience,”​ claimed the organisers. “By switching to the plastic bottle early on, the company Müller Milch, for example, was able to expand its market shares considerably to almost 30 per cent.”

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