Coca-Cola reveals its new paper bottle prototype

11 Nov 2020

Atlanta-based beverage company Coca-Cola announced that it is testing a paper bottle prototype this month for both still and carbonated beverages. While this prototype will be tested in limited markets, Coca-Cola said that it is “too early” to specifically outline when this packaging will be released for widespread use.

As part of the Paboco Pioneer Community – an initiative led by Coca-Cola, Carlsberg, Pernod Ricard and L’Oréal that is exploring the feasibility of paper packaging – Coca-Cola is working in tandem with these other companies to perfect paper packaging that is equipped for mass production and scale. Currently, Coke’s paper bottle prototype has a paper shell but is still lined with plastic, albeit from a 100% recycled source.

Coca-Cola reveals its new paper bottle prototype
Courtesy of Coca-Cola EU

Its current model is the first stage in this experimental packaging development, but the company is striving to devise a solution that does not require the use of any plastic. “Our vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any other type of paper,” Stijn Franssen, the R&D packaging innovation manager at Coca-Cola said in a statement.

To accomplish this goal, Coke is putting its bottle through comprehensive testing to determine its performance on shelves, in the refrigerator and to understand how well it protects the drinks inside the packaging.

Removing the plastic liner from these paper bottles, which is currently necessary to properly package liquid, is an effort that the members of the Paboco Community are working toward collaboratively. Already Carlsberg and Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut have paper bottle prototypes that are also undergoing extensive testing. While these companies have not been definitive as to the extent or duration of these tests, Coca-Cola’s announcement clarifies that the widespread appearance of these paper bottles on the mass market is still at an undetermined point in the future. “At this stage, the project is evolving every day and it’s too early to talk about the specifics,” a spokesperson for Coca-Cola told Food Navigator.

However, when these paper bottles do appear commercially, they will be a game changer. Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable practices rather than promises from companies, and a Nielsen study showed that 48% of U.S. shoppers are likely to alter their purchasing habits to meet environmental standards.

Packaging has proved to be a particular pain point for consumers as only a portion of the plastic used in packaging is recycled. In 2018, consumers recycled 9.4 million tons of plastic, according to Plastics Europe, but 396 million tons of plastics are produced annually worldwide. Coca-Cola said in 2019 that it produced 3 million tons of plastic packaging per year, The Guardian reported.

Although the beverage giant has made moves to reduce its plastic usage, including updating its Dasani bottles to aluminum cans, the company told the BBC earlier this year that it plans to retain plastic bottles in its portfolio. At the same time, consumers are pushing companies to make strides in sustainability, so the R&D department at Coca-Cola is likely to continue to looks to expand its packaging options in hopes of increasing its overall consumer base.

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