The world’s second-largest brewer – with 70,000+ staff globally and brands including Grolsch, Peroni, Miller Genuine Draft and Pilsner Urquell – partnered with Trinity College Dublin in September 2012 to pursue research.
Scientists at CRANN – a nano-science institute at the university – collaborated with the brewer on the project to develop a new nano-material to prolong the shelf life of beer in plastic bottles – by stopping oxygen ingress and the escape of CO2.
Added to plastic bottles, the new material makes them more impervious, while the project also promises cost saving in terms of quantity of material required for manufacture, and reduces the environmental impact of PET bottles.
Simply stated, the technique pioneered by Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team involves the exfoliation of boron nitride and other layered materials – you can read more about it in this issue of the journal Science.
Speaking at the Canadean Beverage Packaging 2014 conference in Brussels last week, Antoinette Devine – global materials and packaging consultant, SAB Miller, told delegates about progress on the two year project.
“We’ve invested quite heavily in a research program to look at the next generation of barrier PET, working withTrinityCollegeon that, and it’s looking pretty promising,” she said.
“Probably not going to be commercialized for at least another five years, but it’s there, and in its current form it works,” Devine added.
Noting an upsurge of demand for beer in PET, Devine said: “Even in the Czech Republic, which was the traditional beer market, we’ve put PET filling lines in, which was a major surprise to me."
Devine explained that when she joined SAB in 2006, PET didn’t exist anywhere except for ‘events’ – but now constitutes 70% of the Romanian market, for instance.
“My daughter came home a couple of months ago and said she really liked the plastic bottles pubs serve cider in at night time. Why? Because they’re really easy, lightweight, reclosable, and if I drop it it doesn’t break. The next generation don’t have the same perception of PET that this generation has.”
Devine said new SAB Miller Alan Clark had talked about putting a much greater “focus and finance” on innovation going forward.
“What innovation means to the business we haven’t quite decided, because it’s very different in different parts of the world – but we recognize that the period of M&A is probably over – despite all the rumors in the media recently – is probably over. And we have to grow through innovation going forward,” she said.
“A lot of our [SAB’s] focus on innovation is in packaging. The brewers will tell you different, say ‘It’s all about the liquid!’. But we don’t believe that – we think it’s the packaging that sells the product and therefore a lot of the focus is going into packaging innovation,” Devine added.