A toast to Glass Packaging

24 March 2016

A toast to Glass Packaging

A toast to glass packaging

Glass continues to remain a firm favourite with consumers, brands, retailers and designers. With pressure to improve costs across the supply chain, can glass remain a material of choice? Dave Howell reports

As a primary packaging material, glass continues to thrive. According to the latest market research from Research and Markets, global glass packaging market volume was estimated to be 47,000kt in 2013 and is expected to reach 60,847kt by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 4% from 2014 to 2020.

Asia-Pacific is expected to maintain a leadership position in the glass market, and is estimated to account for close to 38% of the global glass packaging demand by 2020. Europe, the second largest market, is expected to play a key role in boosting the demand for glass packaging owing to the increased beer consumption from countries of Eastern Europe. Asia-Pacific is also expected to be the fastest growing regional market over the next six years, growing at an estimated CAGR of 4.2% in terms of volume from 2014 to 2020.

The alcoholic beverages sector remains the highest consumer of the material. Brands in beer and wine continue to use glass as a brand differentiator, with a number of innovations that have the high shelf impact retailers are looking for.

The pharma sector, too, has had a long and continued association with glass due to its sterile properties. However, plastics are encroaching on this market and others, and this development is only expected to accelerate in the long term. Plastic is also, as we have seen, increasingly being used in food packaging, but a number of brands in this sector will continue to use glass as their primary packaging material as it is a core component of their brand communication.


Material choice

For decades, glass has been the material of choice for a number of core reasons: It remains a premium packaging material across all consumer spaces, from fast-moving consumer goods to luxury beverages. As a barrier to contamination, glass is excellent, and it offers low transmission of oxygen and water vapour. Glass also continues to be highly recyclable.

Halewood International's UK MD, John Bradbury, tells Packaging Today, "There is a very strong consumer perception that glass is more expensive than cans or PET. This perception can imbue a brand with premium credentials, hence its appeal to many. On a practical note, for many products, glass provides a longer shelf life than PET. For example, in glass bottle, Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer has an 18-month shelf life, whereas in PET, this is only 6-9 months."

Lynn Bragg, president of Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), agrees. "The natural properties of glass make it a preferred packaging material and a top choice for brands," she says. "Consumers also tend to prefer products in glass. An EcoFocus survey found that 75% of consumers prefer glass packaging because it preserves the taste or flavour of its contents. Amber glass bottles are also 99.9% effective against light; and because glass is an excellent insulator, it keeps a product colder longer than other packaging choices."

On the case against glass, however, printing on plastics is relatively straightforward, but printing onto glass has always been a challenge. Labels are the standard, but increasingly, coding is needed on the glass substrate itself. A recent innovation is the 2YL955i ink from Domino Printing Services, compatible with the A-Series i-Tech range of CIJ printers.

"Printing legible codes onto certain bottles can prove to be a challenging task," explains Greg Treanor, product marketing manager for CIJ at Domino Printing Sciences. "Thanks to extensive research and development, we have created an advanced, high-contrast, opaque yellow ink that is visible on dark surfaces. The ink is particularly suited for use in returnable glass beverage plants, as it can be readily removed when the bottles are caustic-wash cleaned for refilling."

Glass is clearly versatile across a number of packaging sectors, and continued development is making the material even more attractive and useful to brands and their packaging partners.


Environmental protection

The environmental advantages offered by glass have been known for years: as a highly recyclable material, glass can certainly hold its own against other primary packaging materials. However, the weight of glass is constantly under consideration, as brands and their supply chain partners look to save costs with lightweighting initiatives.

A major industry-wide initiative called Container Light, funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and managed by the Faraday Packaging Partnership, made practical moves towards lightweighting across glass packaging. The research discovered that participants were generally unable to detect a reduction in weight of 5-10%.

Ten years later, lightweighting across the glass industry continues to be major area of product development as Simon Gilleard, AB InBev packaging development manager, explains. "The aim is to create a more lightweight glass bottle for consumers that also reduces the amount of glass we use in production," he says. "In 2014, we reduced the weight of the 30cl Budweiser bottle by 10g. This is part of our environmental commitments, for which we are focused on reducing the amount of energy and raw materials used in our production process."

Gilleard continues: "In 2015, AB InBev UK reduced energy consumption per hectolitre by 1% compared with 2014, and recycled nearly 100% of all waste and brewing byproducts. Every year, we invest in innovations and refining processes to ensure we continue to improve on our packaging commitments. Our latest goal was to reduce global usage by 100kt by 2017 from our 2012 baseline. We are pleased to say we have achieved this already, and look to continue on this progress."

Of course, one of the major reasons that glass has remained so popular with consumers is how advanced opportunities for its recycling have become. Brands understand that the environmental impact of their products is an important component in how customers choose brands.

Indeed, news from the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE) that glass recycling has now reached 73% across the EU reinforces the appeal of glass. The Friends of Glass initiative continues to support the material as a versatile and unique way to package a wide range of products.

Michael Delle Selve, senior communications manager at FEVE, says, "Glass has remained an important part of the packaging mix of many brands for a number of important reasons. Its ability to protect and preserve quality and taste of its contents, and protect consumers' health over long periods is a key driver of consumer choice, and the beauty and premium appearance of the form are well proven and long established. Its resealability, the natural high quality and the clean transparency of its contents are also timeless features."


Sensory appeal

Creative use of glass has been used by many brands to leverage their position in the marketplace. For instance, it was central to the beer-in-a-jar concept from Grolsch, which hoped to enter the Romanian market with an innovative form factor that would grab the imaginations of beer drinkers across the country.

More recently, Ridgeway Brewery has adopted a glass beer bottle, with the words 'Craft Beer' embossed around the shoulder of the bottle, from Beaton Clark.

Commenting on the bottle, co-owner of the brewery Peter Scholey says, "The opportunity to use a generic 'Craft Beer' branded bottle is ideal for what we do, and matches the profile of our beers and our customers." Embossing has also been used by Goose Island Beer with its limited edition Bourbon County Brand Stout.

The new bottle from Edinburgh Gin also has an enhanced textured surface. "Our new bottles are made by Bruni Glass. The decision to change the bottle was down to feedback from bartenders and a change in our marketing activity," says Euan Munsie of The Spencerfield Spirit Company. "Our old bottle was quite chunky and hard to handle for bartending. The new one has a classier look, with Edinburgh Gin embossed just before the stem."

Having a tactile component as an essential component of a glass bottle has been used by many brands. However, glass can be much more versatile and appeal to the coveted millennial audience, which actively seeks out new form factors and drinking experiences.

Verallia's fluo glass is a great example. "Clear by day, fluorescent blue by night. Under black light, transparent bottles light up to add a touch of magic and originality to jet-set nights out," the brand claims.

Staying with visual innovation in glass bottle design, Absolut last year released their Electrik range of metallic bottles. The twin-bottle release is available in blue and silver, with semitransparent coating creating reflections in the glass. The two colours represent Absolut's signature cobalt blue and the electrical conductivity of silver. When combined, the colours reflect the Electrik aesthetic, reminiscent of flashing lights and pumping beats.

MEDEA Vodka bottles take the idea of a 'message in a bottle' a step towards reality. The MEDEA Vodka LED bottle uses Apple's iBeacon Bluetooth technology to allow a smartphone to wirelessly set and display scrolling messages. The MEDEA App is able to immediately know what bottles are in the vicinity, without having to connect or find every Bluetooth-enabled device.


Glass can also be adapted to offer a practical solution that brands can communicate to consumers. Good examples of this include the HELIX glass and cork bottle closure that has been adopted by over 20 leading wine producers.

Versaflow offers a unique pouring spout that allows the consumer to pour liquid in a clean, precise manner. Dutch company sLandsBeste, known for its 100% natural and traditional products, has adopted the new jar, saying, "We deliberately chose a glass container. By using the unique Versaflow carafe, we are also strengthening our brand identity and we can stand out even more distinctively on the shelf."

Halewood's Bradbury comments, "There is an appetite for more premium formats - sprayed and etched coatings, embossing, sleeving, screen printing and so on - as well as differently shaped and heavyweight bottles, to help premiumise high-end branded products. In contrast, environmental and price considerations combine to continue the drive towards lightweighting. We will continue to explore new solutions that meet this criteria."

GPI's Bragg concludes, "In the past several years, one of the biggest changes in the packaging market is the competition to attract the swell of millennials, which, by 2020, will account for a third of the adult population (about 83 million). The ripple effect has been a rise in local and craft brands, in nearly every beverage category, functional foods and beverages, and smaller formats, as well as an increased focus on health and sustainability.

"The millennial consumer also has different expectations than previous generations. They are looking for transparency, sustainability, and local, smaller brands that offer new experiences and premiumisation. Glass containers are perfectly poised to meet these expectations, but there is a lot of competition in the packaging arena to win over consumers."

The strengths that glass maintains as a premium packaging material continue to be felt right across the packaging industry. Glass isn't perfect - its weight and fragility continue to be an issue for the supply chain, for instance. As consumers continue to favour this packaging material, innovation will no doubt continue.

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