Container Demand Grows, but Sizes Shrink

By Sarah Theodore

Plastic containers are leading the 1.7 percent annual growth in U.S. beverage packaging, according to the Beverage Containers study recently published by the Freedonia Group, an industrial market research firm in Cleveland, Ohio.
With a predicated 4.9 percent annual growth rate between 2002 and 2007, plastic beverage packaging, which includes pouches, far outpaces the expected growth in metal containers (0.5 percent per year), glass (1.1 percent per year) and paperboard packages (-0.1 percent per year).
While more beverages are finding their way into plastic bottles, the size per unit continues to shrink, according to the study. In 1992, the beverage industry packaged 10 billion gallons of product in plastic, with an average of 70.2 ounces per unit. Ten years later, 17.5 billion gallons made it into plastic containers, but the ounces-per-unit measurement dropped to 41.6. By 2007, it is expected that 20.4 billion gallons will be packaged in plastic containers, with an average 38.1 ounces per unit.
Soft drinks are most commonly packaged in plastic, with 25.9 billion units used in 2002, and an expected 30.5 billion in 2007. But water is growing just as quickly, with 12 billion units in 2002, and 17.3 billion predicated for 2007. Milk is gaining a little more slowly, with an expected 1.6 billion-unit increase to 8.5 billion units in 2007, and fruit beverages will increase from 4.2 billion to 5.6 billion units in 2007, according to the report.
An example of the shrinking size of plastic packaging can be found in the new PET packages introduced by Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, based in Charlotte, N.C. The company created 12-ounce PET soft drink and bottled water bottles for multipacks, and in an effort to target female consumers with smaller packaging, developed a 390-ml. single-serve bottle for the convenience store segment.
Although not measured in the Freedonia report, spirits companies are increasingly considering plastic for their products. Brown-Forman recently launched its Canadian Mist, Southern Comfort and Early Times products in new 750-ml. PET bottles. The company worked with Amcor to take the brands from 750-ml. stock containers to customized packages that match Brown-Forman’s 1.75-liter PET bottles. The new Canadian Mist bottle features a sleek, indented grip and an asymmetrical body. The companies were able emboss fine details in the shoulder of the Early Times bottle, and Southern Comfort features insets and a sculpted edge similar to the brand’s glass packaging.
In addition to embossing and debossing capabilities, plastic packaging lends itself to colorful shrinkwrapping. Seal-It, Farmingdale, N.Y., recently introduced heat-shrink labels with thermochromatic inks. The temperature-sensitive inks change color when subjected to either hot or cold.
“The marketing potential for this ink technology is enormous,” the company said in a recent announcement. “Imagine a manufacturer wanting to promote its product with a game that includes a secret code printed on the label. The consumer is instructed to put the product in the freezer in order to see the code and see if he won a prize.”
Alcoa Inc., Richmond, Va., also produces shrink labels and says it has two new printing technologies used at its Downingtown, Pa., plant. The company uses reverse-printed inks and has an interference “flip” ink that changes from one color to another as the label is tilted. It also has a pearlescent white ink that can be surface-printed for dramatic graphic depth.
Another new concept is the round PET bottle created by Luca Casini Design Studio in Milan. The innovative round bottle is patented but has not yet been used for a product, the company says. Designer Luca Casini says the bottle was created with multiple variations for the base, and the shape was “adopted for low gas dispersion attributes, pressure resistance and for its visual impact”.
Although the design is not yet in commercial use, Casini has several ideas, including fruit juice packaged like fresh fruit. “We thought it would have been interesting to use the ’net’ normally used for oranges or lemons,” he says. “Could you imagine the power of an orange juice in a similar orange frosted bottle in a ’net’ colored pack?”
Metal Picks Up The Pace
Demand for metal beverage containers has grown consistently over the years, albeit more slowly than plastic containers, and the average container size has remained at 12 ounces per unit, according to the Freedonia study. In 1992, demand was 97 billion containers, and grew to 100.2 billion a decade later. Demand is expected to reach 102.6 billion in 2007.
Soft drinks, as they did for plastic containers, make up the bulk of metal container demand, with double the use of the beer industry. And demand for soft drink cans is increasing at a faster pace, perhaps due to successful new refrigerated multipacks and aluminum bottle cans. In 1997, the soft drink industry used 62.6 billion containers, which increased by approximately 1.3 billion units by 2002. That figure is expected to increase by almost 2.3 billion units by 2007 to a total of 66 billion units.
Demand for metal containers in the beer industry has been declining for some time in favor of glass, and in some cases plastic, and because overall beer production has slowed. Although that trend is expected to continue, the pace of the decline is slowing. In 1992, demand for beer cans was 38 billion units. In 1997, it had dropped to 32.7 billion units, and 32 billion in 2002. Freedonia predicts that demand will only drop another half-billion units by 2007.
Much of the innovation in metal packaging has been on the secondary packaging side of the business, but Crown Beverage Packaging USA, Philadelphia, recently introduced decorated SuperEnd beverage ends, with a distinctive message or billboard area. The company says SuperEnds feature an exclusive 45-degree countersink wall that can be used for brand logos, special messages, co-branding promotions, instant-win campaigns and other consumer messages.
“Decorated SuperEnd can ends offer a simple way for beverage marketers to reinforce brand identity and drive product differentiation,” Thomas Fischer, vice president of sales and marketing at Crown, said in a statement. “This new capability provides additional value to SuperEnd beverage end users, who already benefit from reduced material costs, enhanced package integrity and improved end performance.”
Aluminum bottle-cans produced by companies such as CCL Container and Cebal are also leading change in the metal container segment. The cans can be custom-shaped like plastic bottles, they are lightweight, chill quickly and are reclosable. Beverage-makers such as Snapple, Kraft and Vincor International have already used the bottle-cans to create stand-out packaging for Snapple Elements, Capri Sun and Tabu Vodka, respectively.
A Glass Half Full
Despite a turn to plastic for many packages formerly packaged in glass, demand for glass containers continues to grow. In 1997, 27.8 billion glass containers were used by the beverage industry. By 2007, Freedonia estimates the demand will be 28.7 billion units, and says the conversion from glass to plastic has largely been completed.
Beer represents the largest share of glass demand, with about 18 billion units more than the wine industry. What the metal can industry is losing in beer demand, the glass industry is picking up, at about 1.2 billion units every five years. In 1997, the beer industry used 19.2 billion glass bottles, and in 2007, that figure is expected to increase to 21.7 billion.
Glass use by the wine industry has fluctuated, reaching 2.03 billion units in 1997, 1.85 billion in 2002, and is expected to rise back to 2.01 billion units in 2007.
Glass is still the ultimate in upscale packaging and can be used in a variety of ways. Brands from spirits to soft drinks and juice are using glass with paper labels, clear pressure-sensitive labels, shrink labels and applied ceramic imaging.
Diageo this year rolled out Smirnoff Vodka flavor “twists” such as Cranberry Twist in new glass bottles that appear to be twisted in their mid-section. In addition to their unique shape, the bottles feature clear, pressure-sensitive labels.
Thomas Kemper Sodas, premium soft drinks produced in Seattle, are packaged in glass and recently rolled out new paper label graphics that incorporate wood grain and brushed metal effects as well as a watermark icon.
In addition to featuring one of today’s hottest fruits, POM Wonderful pomegranate juices are packaged in glass bottles shaped like stacked pomegranates. The innovative bottle with ceramic graphics received one of the Glass Packaging Institute’s Clear Choice awards last year.
What’s New In Paper?
Aseptic and bag-in-box packaging are expected to lead paperboard container use in the beverage industry, while cartons and composite cans decline, according to the Freedonia report.
Paperboard containers made nice gains between 1992 and 2002, when they grew by 2.2 billion units to 23.8 billion, overall. But by 2007, they are expected to drop to 23.7 billion units. Fruit beverages and milk are the top users of paperboard packaging, in both cartons and aseptic boxes. But while juice is expected to continue to grow from 9 billion units in 1992 to 12.6 billion in 2007, milk has consistently dropped, and is expected to fall from 12.5 billion units in 1992 to 10.1 in 2007.
One beverage category that is increasing its use of paperboard packaging in surprising new ways is wine. Once the package of choice for less expensive wines, “cask” packaging is making a comeback in premium products.
According to Scholle Corp., maker of bag-in-box packaging for wine, 50 percent of wine in Australia is packaged in bag-in-box, and only 18 percent in the United States. The package that is expected to become most popular is the 3-liter cask, which is equal to four bottles of wine. The package offers a lower price point, and the vacuum-sealed bag prevents oxidation so wine lasts longer.
Canandaigua Wine Co. also is using paperboard packaging for wine, with the introduction of a new 500-ml. single-serve Tetra Prisma package from Tetra Pak. Almaden’s Red Sangria is the first wine to use the octagonal-shaped Tetra Prisma package, which Canandaigua says is perfect for on-the-go convenience. The wine will retail for $3.49 per package.
“Canandagua Wine and Tetra Pak conducted consumer research that demonstrated exceptionally high interest in this innovative packaging concept,” said Diana Pawlik, brand manager for Almaden Vineyards, in a statement. “Both overall appeal and purchase intent scores for the design of the package exceed industry benchmark targets.”
It’s In The Bag
Old-fashioned tea bags are going high-tech thanks to two companies that are using new triangle-shaped tea bags. Revolution Tea, Tempe, Ariz., and Ames International Tea Division, Seattle, have each rolled out versions of the new bags.
Revolution Tea’s Pyramid Bags are made from nylon and filled with full-leaf tea. The bags are packed in another innovative package, the T-Pot Revolution Retail Tin, a stay-fresh container that the company says can be used for secondary storage of spices and herbs.
Ames International says its Teaosophy pyramid-shaped mesh tea bags allow water to circulate around the leaves, making them “dance” or expand and move freely in a way that traditional flat bags do not.
“The larger leaves and tea pod allow drinkers to control the infusion of the tea — regulating its flavor and intensity, and eliminating the infusion of any chemicals or paper remnants that can steep into the tea from paper dip-and-go bags,” says Amy Paulose, vice president of brand development at Ames International. “The result is loose tea’s robust flavors with the convenience of a tea bag.”

U.S. beverage container demand (Billion units)
Item 2002 2007 % annual growth
2002 to 2007
Metal 100.2 102.6 1.7
Plastic 53.8 68.5 4.9
Glass 27.2 28.7 1.1
Paper 23.8 23.7 -0.1
Total demand 205.0 223.5 1.7
Source: The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, Ohio

Plastic beverage container demand by market
Item 1997 2002 2007
Beverages packaged in plastic (billions of gallons) 14.0 17.5 20.4
Ounces per unit 50.3 41.6 38.1
Plastic beverage container demand (millions of units) 35,665 53,835 68,535
Soft drinks 20,500 25,900 30,500
Water 4,800 12,030 17,300
Milk 5,900 6,915 8,530
Fruit beverages 2,360 4,810 6,590
Other 2,105 4,180 5,615
Source: The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, Ohio

Metal beverage container demand by market
Item 1997 2002 2007
Beverages packaged in metal (millions of gallons) 9,360 9,447 9,691
Ounces per unit 12.1 12.1 12.1
Metal beverage container demand (millions of units) 98,895 100,210 102,640
Soft drinks 62,600 63,900 66,170
Beer 32,700 32,000 31,500
Other 3,595 4,310 4,970
Source: The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, Ohio

Glass beverage container demand by market
Item 1997 2002 2007
Beverages packaging in glass(millions of gallons) 3,521 3,316 3,490
Ounces per unit 16.2 15.6 15.6
Glass beverage container demand (millions of units) 27,768 27,245 28,655
Beer 19,200 20,500 21,700
Wine 2,030 1,850 2,010
Other 6,538 4,895 4,945
Source: The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, Ohio

Paperboard beverage container demand by market
ITEM 1997 2002 2007
Beverages packaged in paper (millions of gallons) 4,233 4,174 4,250
Ounces per unit 23.0 22.4 23.0
Paperboard beverage container demand (millions of units) 23,576 23,845 23,700
Fruit beverages 11,645 12,120 12,550
Milk 11,600 10,900 10,130
Other 331 825 1,020
Source: The Freedonia Group, Cleveland, Ohio