Metal innovation fuels growth in soft drinks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drinks, Soft drink

Led by higher-margin niches such as health and wellness and energy products, the soft drinks industry is maintaining a brisk pace in metal packaging innovation.

Recent launches at different ends of the value spectrum include a 250ml multipack can for Britvic and PepsiCo in the UK and a new application of Rexam's aluminium Fusion bottle for Hassia's Beautywater Q10 in Germany.

In fact, as chair of beverage can manufacturers' organisation The Can Makers, Geoff Courtney explained that even an apparently simple redesign such as the 250ml can involves months of development. Designed to boost the take-home market, and consciously targeting female consumers with its smaller size, it demonstrates how packaging can support sales growth.

But the beverage industry has a growing toolbox of technologies to choose from, and an apparent willingness to use them. "From resealable ends to tactile finishes, and from thermochromic inks to full-aperture ends, drink manufacturers have a wide range of options with which to differentiate, promote and launch their products,"​ said Courtney.

"The more premium the brand, the more niche the product, the more creative you can get with innovation," ​he added.

In its 'Total Innovation' white paper published earlier this year, The Can Makers pointed out that eye-catching features such as resealability have been taken up enthusiastically by the energy drinks sector.

Nor are such innovations all about functionality. "As with Tango's tongue-in-cheek messages, delivered via temperature-sensitive thermochromic inks, it can be about quirkiness," ​said Courtney.

This example also shows that it is not only the higher-margin brands that can afford to incur costs with optional innovation. What No Fear is doing today, Sprite may be investing in next year.

Of course, plastics and other materials also help to create new sales opportunities. In 2010, for instance, Britvic and PepsiCo UK introduced a new 600ml polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle for their low- and no-sugar brands. This was said to have generated £8.5M of incremental sales in the first 12 weeks.

Last year, UK soft drink sales grew by 4.1% in volume and 5.8% in value terms the highest rate for the seven years, according to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA). Sports and energy drinks were best, growing by 13.1% and 12.8% respectively.

When the figures were published in April, BSDA director general Jill Ardagh commented: "Even in tough economic conditions, our industry can thrive because it is focused on meeting popular demand."

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