In a study to be published at the beginning of 2011, Pira assesses the options open to brewers interested in PET and explores the market potential of the material.
It is launching the research project in response to growing interest from brand owners and as a result of technological improvements making PET more suitable for beer packaging.
One of the main technical barriers holding PET back in the beer market has been the availability of suitable barrier technologies, as beer is sensitive to the damaging effects of oxygen.
Technological advances such as the development of active packaging have opened up the market, according to Pira. For example, oxygen scavenging closures can be used to remove oxygen throughout the life of a product so a packaged beer can have a lower oxygen content on the shelf than it had when first filled.
In addition to the technological improvements that make PET more suitable for beer, the material offers some advantages to brand owners.
Compared to glass, Pira said there is potential for significant cost savings from using PET because bottles can be blown on site rather than being delivered. There are additional savings related to the elimination of risk of breakage and supply chain costs linked to weight and recyclability.
From a consumer point of view, there are also potential plus points including greater convenience as the screwcap neck removes the need for a bottle opener.
Adam Page, head of information at Pira, added that PET could be a particularly attractive option for certain niches of the market. He told BeverageDaily.com: “Beer in PET is already marketed and used as a safe alternative to glass bottles at events and festivals, and there is the potential to market this to nightclubs as well. Younger drinkers new to beer represent a tremendous opportunity for brewers.”
But many barriers remain, especially on the marketing side. While there may be some advantages for consumers, PET is often associated with low quality and there is the ongoing perception that the material has a negative effect on taste.
Some technical barriers also remain including the difficulty of developing good barrier protection while assuring that the recycling chain is not adversely affected.