Companies including Carlsberg, Absolut, L’Oréal, Coca-Cola and P&G already form part of the ‘Paboco Community’, and each are at various stages of developing and trialing a paper bottle (Absolut and Carlsberg, for example, having been trialing their bottle on the market over the last few months).
But the community’s mission has been about constant improvement: with each company sharing learnings and development as they evolve the base design.
The next-gen bottle rolling off the production line next year will be made from 85% paper (14g) and 15% HDPE barrier (2.6g), offering a durable and splash resistant package. It will be made from FSC certified paper and will be as recyclable as paper packaging.
Available in 500ml and 330ml, the packaging can be enhanced with decoration – such as embossing and debossing – offering a ‘unique haptic and shelf impact from paper bottle surface look and feel – engaging consumers from the first touch’.
Paboco will initially focus on the beauty industry and home-care sectors for the next-gen bottle: but is confident in its potential across F&B and other applications.
Pushing the rapid industrialisation of paper bottles
Paper bottles sound like the holy grail in the search for more sustainable packaging formats. And yet the challenge is more complex than that. Paper bottles need to be rigid and strong enough to cope with the rigours of distribution. They need to have a waterproof lining to contain the liquid or cream within. They need to be attractive to consumers and convey marketing messages and required information. And each bottle needs to be easy to recycle post-use.
Furthermore, different applications have different requirements: beer packaging needs to accommodate the carbonation of the drink; while beauty packaging needs to be able to withstand the humidity of the bathroom.
Setting out to address these challenges, Pabaco was formed in Denmark in 2019 as a joint venture from Austrian-headquartered packaging specialist ALPLA and Swedish pulp and paper manufacturer Billerud.
Now - by taking over all of Billerud’s shares and investing in Paboco - ALPLA, as majority shareholder, says it can push the rapid industrialisation of the fully recyclable paper bottle made from FSC-certified fibres. This can be done by drawing on its existing work on alternative materials – which already includes fibre-based packaging.
“We had the chance to become majority owners and we took it,” Christian Zmölnig, Director Corporate Research, Development & Innovation ALPLA, told us.
“The new structure allows us to move even closer together and continue to support and advise Paboco on its way to scalability of their products. In this step we can bring in our extensive technology know-how and customer access. We firmly believe in the future of complementary packaging solutions made of other materials than plastic for specific applications and target groups.”
From trial to scaling up manufacturing
Since 2021, Paboco has been testing the first products on the market together with the Paboco Pioneer Community members: The Absolut Company, Carlsberg Group, The Coca-Cola Company, L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble.
Absolut Vodka trialed a 500ml single-mould paper bottle in 22 Tesco stores (RRP £16) across Greater Manchester in the UK throughout the summer.
This first-generation version was made from 57% paper with an integrated barrier of recyclable plastic: resulting in a bottle eight times lighter than glass.
"Feedback from the Manchester trial has been very positive. Sales have been consistent, and consumers have been appreciative of our paper-based bottle," Elin Furelid, director of future packaging, told us.
"Its 500ml size and lightweight nature make it convenient for on-the-go usage, building our confidence that it's a more than worthy complement to our glass bottle."
Similarly, Carlsberg has been trialing 8,000 bio-based fibre bottles in Western Europe this summer.
This version included a plant-based PEF polymer lining developed by Avantium: functioning as a 'highly effective barrier' between the beer and the fibre outer shell, protecting the taste and fizziness of the beer better than conventional fossil-fuel-based PET plastic, according to Carlsberg.
The bio-based, sustainably sourced wood fibre has the added benefit of insulative properties to keep beer colder for longer, compared to cans or glass bottles.
Following this successful test phase, series production of the next generation of recyclable paper bottles is scheduled to start at the end of 2024.
For the market launch, the company plans to set up a new state-of-the-art manufacturing site and development centre in Denmark. There are currently 18 employees at Paboco – the number of employees is expected to increase significantly by the time series production begins.
With the bottle’s current configuration, Paboco is targeting the beauty and fabric and home-care segment, but promises that continuous development will enable it to bring the next-generation to further applications.
“We view the beauty sector as one among many that represent a desire for innovation and change,” Michael Michelsen, Commercial Director Paboco, told us.
“Initially, the choice has been driven by technology performance achievements for the Next Gen bottle & a comparison to the alternative packaging used within the sector – here we see a strong benefit in emissions reduction by replacing plastics with the paper bottle.
“We are highly optimistic that the paper bottle will have application for the beverage industry, and others, over time as we are working with industry leaders in this area – especially those among Paboco’s Pioneer Community.”