Molson Coors sees changing consumer preferences in beer packaging, cuts packaging weight by 21%

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Carling cans: now wrapped in film, not cardboard, in the UK
Carling cans: now wrapped in film, not cardboard, in the UK

Related tags: Molson coors, Recycling

Consumer preferences in beer are shifting away from heavy glass packaging to lighter aluminium cans and PET bottle formats, says North American brewing giant Molson Coors. 

The company’s 2015 corporate responsibility report, entitled ‘Our Beer Print’, says light-weighting initiatives (reducing the weight of bottles and other packaging) helped cut total packaging weight by 21% - equating to 141,028 tonnes - against a 2012 baseline. Changes in packaging mix (and particularly changes between glass, aluminium cans and PET bottles) also contributed to this reduction.  

Molson Coors, however, adds that packaging impact should be considered by more than weight-based metrics, and plans to re-adjust its targets this year accordingly.

What makes packaging sustainable?

“We have seen considerable consumer habit changes in the past three years,” ​said Molson Coors in its sustainability report. “A shift in consumer preferences away from heavy glass packaging to much lighter aluminium can and PET bottle formats, and larger pack sizes has been a key trend.

“As a result of this we achieved a 21% (141,028 tonnes) total packaging weight reduction against our 2012 baseline by the end of 2014. Whilst the shift in packaging mix and consumer trends have given opportunities to exceed our target we have continued to deliver many weight reduction savings through light weighting initiatives and changing the materials for a number of our formats.”

Packaging has been identified as one of the top three material environmental issues for the company’s 2020 sustainability strategy, along with water risk and energy & carbon.

Sustainable packaging is considered on the basis of metrics including: greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of CO2e per unit of production), distance to transport, recycle content and recovery value. Molson Coors says all its bottles and cans include recycled materials, sometimes up to 75%.

The packaging target is being further reviewed in 2015, with a view to creating new targets which look at other elements than a weight-based metric.

Molson Coors’ Global Packaging Policy sets out a commitment to reduce the amount of packaging used, re-use packaging where possible, collect and recycle packaging materials, and educate consumers in the recyclability of its packaging.

In central Europe, Molson Coors has taken out 5g of PET from each bottle, equating to an overall reduction of 120 tones and a cost saving annually of $175,000. The overall steel gauge thickness of bottle crowns has also been reduced, equating to a reduction of 130 tons of steel every year and a saving of $70,000.

Last year the company partnered with its PET supplier in Bulgaria to reduce the weight of bottles: using 6% less material and saving $70,000 annually. A similar partnership in the Czech Republic the year before reduced the weight of bottles by 10%, saving $175,000 per year.

Secondary packaging

While the main concern has been with primary packaging, Molson Coors says it is also necessary to address secondary packaging – sleeves, films, boxes and other outer packaging.

“In 2012 we set out a target to achieve 4% absolute reduction in primary packaging weight by 2015. The target was based on primary packaging only.

“Since this time we have improved our data collection approaches to include secondary packaging which meant that in 2014 we collected both primary and secondary packaging usage data for the first time. We have re-baselined our 2012 and 2013 data to include secondary packaging.”

An example of developments in secondary packaging is Carling in the UK: whose secondary packaging was reduced by 63% by replacing cardboard with film in 2011 and thus reducing carbon emissions by 4%, says the report (the film is recyclable). 

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