Coca-Cola to trial 2,000 paper-based drinks bottles in Europe

The Coca-Cola Company - one of the biggest plastic producers in the food and beverage space - has confirmed plans to trial 2,000 paper-based bottles this year, to test the material's viability as an alternative to single-use plastics.

Image: The Coca-Cola Company

Image: The Coca-Cola Company

The bottles will be used to house 2,000 units of the Coca-Cola Company’s AdeZ drink for the Hungarian market and will hit retailers’ shelves in the second quarter of 2021.

Each bottle consists of a paper-based outer shell, made using sustainably sourced materials, and a bio-based lining that acts as a barrier for the liquid inside. Coca-Cola claims that this part of the packaging can be recycled as paper in most European markets, including Hungary. There is still a plastic cap and a plastic lining, but these components weigh less than traditional PET bottles and Coca-Cola claims they can be recycled.

The Coca-Cola Company has been working with other big-name companies, including Absolut, L’Oreal and Carlsberg, to develop the bottles. The designs are being shared through a collaborative company set up to facilitate this joint project, called The Paper Bottle Company (Paboco).

Paboco’s ultimate goal is to create a bottle where all components can be recycled as paper. Moreover, the bottle should overcome current challenges with shifting to plastic-free alternatives in sectors like food and beverage and health and beauty. Many businesses in these spaces choose plastic as it is easy to source food-grade content or to produce packaging that preserves shelf-life, for example.

“This trial will provide us with invaluable insight and feedback,” Coca-Cola Europe’s R&D packaging innovation manager Stijn Franssen said. “We will get to see how the paper bottle prototype performs as packaging and what consumers think and feel about it.

"This is an exciting step forward for us, as it means we’re out of the lab and into the real world.”

Got the bottle

The announcement from the Coca-Cola Company comes after fellow Paboco member Absolut confirmed plans for its first real-world trials of paper-based bottles. The alcoholic beverage giant has sold 2,000 of the bottles across its Swedish and UK markets since autumn 2020. Similarly to the Coca-Cola Company, Absolut is seeking to gauge consumer opinion as well as assessing the practicalities of the packaging format.

In a similar move, drinks giant Diageo unveiled a plastic-free, paper-based spirits bottle in 2020. The packaging will debut on the company's Johnnie Walker range of Scotch Whisky in the first half of 2021.

Diageo, which makes renowned drinks such as Smirnoff and Guinness, claims the bottle is the world’s first-ever 100% plastic-free, paper-based variant. The bottle is made from sustainably sourced wood fibre and meets food-safe standards.

Pulpex Limited, the company behind the packaging format, is a collaboration between Diageo and venture management firm Pilot Lite. Corporates to have shown interest in developing and adopting the packaging alongside Pulpex Limited include PepsiCo and Unilever.

Sarah George



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