Franck Hancard, packaging director, Sidel, told FoodProductionDaily.com manufacturers and bottlers are already interested in the light and unbreakable properties of the packaging. However, they have adopted a ‘wait and see approach’ while they watch how consumer perceptions develop.
A beer bottle still needs to look like a beer bottle
“If consumers were happy to choose beer in PET over glass or other materials, the switch would happen very quickly because of all the other sustainability and cost benefits,” Hancard said. “That is why the focus on addressing consumer perceptions, which are undoubtedly changing, is so important.”
He said consumers should be offered packaging that still resembles traditional glass bottles, and drinkers need to be shown that ‘beer in plastic works.’
“This is about the performance of the bottle in terms of maintaining the beer’s quality and taste. It’s also about the aesthetics, so the consumer gets a product packaged in a way that retains familiarity with what has gone before.”
Down with the kids
A shift to PET plastic from bottles and cans is already happening in specific areas, Hancard said. He gives the examples of music festivals, sporting events, and other outdoor occasions where glass is considered a safety hazard.
“PET bottles are the preferred packaging format here because they do not readily break. Even when crushed, there are no harmful shards or sharp edges to cause serious injury.
“The sale of beer in plastic bottles at these and other events also avoids the need to pour beer into plastic cups, making service at the bar faster, and giving the consumer a container that is easy and safe to carry and use.
“So the consumer is already, in some small part, experiencing beer in PET bottles. It is interesting to note it is often younger people who attend such events, and so perhaps beer in PET will not be considered unusual for the next generation of consumers.”
Lightweight and pasteurisable bottles
PET packaging specialist Sidel launched a PET beer bottle earlier this year, which it claims is the first pasteurisable, lightweight PET bottle with a non-petaloid base.
“The glass-like flat base is more attractive to consumers to help them make the switch,” Hancard said. “The pasteurisation strength means it can be used for the most common lagers brewed worldwide, and the lightweight means it can save brewers costs by reducing raw materials.
“Previously a PET bottle could not do all these three things at once.”
Soft drinks, water, dairy… and beer?
PET packaging is light, unbreakable, and 100% recyclable, Hancard said. The packaging has made inroads in juice, liquid dairy, sauces and edible oils, and has become established in the carbonated soft drinks and water categories.
“However, because of the perceived complexities involved in beer, particularly with regard to consumer perception, brewers have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude to PET bottling,” said Hancard.
“The convenience, costs savings and practical advantages the plastic bottle has brought to producers and consumers of other liquid foods are, therefore, not yet widely embraced.”