Brewing up beverage innovation
In 2015, the beverage packaging industry in North America is expected to reach $26.3 billion in sales, with plastic bottles leading the way in popularity, according to the study Beverage Packaging—An Industry Assessment by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.
The study notes plastic continues to be the most widely used bottling material, accounting for more than 40 percent of the market; bottles, with approximately 55 percent of the market, make up the most popular packaging format for beverages.
“Plastic bottles have become the leading container choice for consumers because of their transparency, recyclability, light weight, resealability and resistance to breakage, and their popularity is expected to continue,” says Paula Feldman, director, business intelligence, PMMI. In fact, from 2015 to 2025, the unit volume of plastic bottles is expected to grow 26 percent, and market share is projected to grow from 44 to 48 percent. “Beverage companies also want to offer resealability on cans and pouches for better portion control.”
Although aluminum cans suffered a drop in soft drink sales, they are picking up steam as other beverage categories—such as energy drinks and microbrews—are more than making up for the lost volume.
“The sales of aluminum cans have suffered from the decline in soft drink sales, but over the last 10 years, the number of drink categories being sold in aluminum cans, including energy drinks and microbrew beers, has increased,” says Feldman. “This is helping aluminum rebound as a beverage packaging material.”
Energy drink companies often use aluminum cans because they believe consumers overwhelmingly prefer their drinks in these containers. On the other hand, microbrew beer manufacturers have begun to market their products in cans for a variety of reasons. They save costs on shipping and material. Aluminum provides better light protection. And cans allow beer to be consumed in places where glass may be inappropriate. Also, can diameters are being expanded to provide premium drinking experiences; some companies are experimenting with tear-off tops to make the drinking experience feel more like drinking from a glass, explains Feldman.
Extended shelf-life (ESL) packaging is expected to continue to see strong growth for the foreseeable future, in large part due to the convenience it brings to the distribution chain. For instance, by extending shelf life from a few weeks to 75 or even 180 days, companies can manufacture product in longer runs and have more storage and distribution flexibility.
Flexible pouches have experienced the slowest growth, but many of the PMMI study respondents still anticipate their increased adoption down the road. Key to that, the report says, would be products geared to consumers accustomed to beverages, such as juice, in pouches.