Sidel claims to have launched the world’s first pasteurisable lightweight PET bottle for beer but says PET still only represents a fraction of the total packaging market in this sector.
The bottle has a ‘champagne’ base that is traditionally found on glass beer bottles and comes with a crown closure and weighs 28g, up to 86% less than an average bottle.
Franck Hancard, packaging director, Sidel, told FoodProductionDaily,the bottle can be used for flash or tunnel pasteurised beer and micro-filtrated beer and can withstand pressures of 20 pasteurisation units (PU) in the tunnel, which is standard for lagers.
“We have launched this product now because we keep getting asked about this topic, and we wanted to give a beer bottle to brewers, brand owners and consumers that can survive the pressures of pasteurisation, while still being light without having a petaloid base,” he said.
“This achieves three goals at the same time: The glass-like flat base is more attractive to consumers, the pasteurisation strength means it can be used for the most common lagers brewed worldwide, and the lightweight means it can save costs by reducing raw materials.
“Previously a PET bottle could not do all these three things at once. It was either very heavy, or it had a petaloid base, or it could not survive pasteurisation.”
Hancard added the design only applies to beer for now but the issue of light weight and low cost of ownership can be applied to all categories, such as milk and water. For example, a 500ml bottle for still water weighed 28g in 1985. Earlier this year, Sidel launched its RightWeight bottle weighing 7.95g with a top load of over 30kg.
Does beer get warmer?
He said for many years there have been misperceptions around beer in PET. For example, some people think the beer gets warmer quicker. But, in Sidel’s studies, its beer bottle kept beer cold for the same time duration as an equivalent sized glass bottle, with less wall thickness and material weight.
Taste is also another misperception, with some consumers believing beer tastes better, for example, in cans instead of PET bottles.
“To the best of our knowledge the industry has never previously achieved a PET bottle that survives pasteurisation while also being light weight and having a non-petaloid base so this is a world first,” he said.
“PET still only represents a fraction of the total packaging market for beer. Nonetheless, producers and consumers alike have an enduring desire for beverage packaging to be light, sustainable and low cost.
“There remains an interest in the industry, and for some consumers, around PET packaging for beer. The issue is driven by the consumer because if they were happy to choose beer in PET over beer in glass or other materials, the switch would happen very quickly.”
He said if a manufacturer is already using PET to package their beer there are significant benefits to switching their product to one which can work on existing equipment with minimal changes on the line.
If they currently use another material ‘this bottle raises several questions such as ‘Would consumers accept PET for beer more easily with the non-petaloid base?’, ‘Can I use this design to differentiate my brand against competitors?’, or ‘How much can I save with the reduced lighter weight, if my consumer accepts PET?’.’
Six-month shelf life
The Sidel development team spent about 12 months carrying out its geometric and mathematical modelling, simulations and real-world feasibility tests on the product before its launch on July 1.
To prove the benefits of its technology, Sidel has blown a 330ml version that can achieve a six-month shelf life (with less than 1 parts-per-million (ppm) of oxygen ingress and less than 17% of carbon dioxide loss).
“The challenges of PET are the same for any packaging material: As a non-negotiable priority you need to protect the safety and quality of the beverage or food inside,” said Hancard.
“Then you need to entice the consumer and offer a great consumption experience that leads to repeat purchases. This means a good design that performs well across the supply chain. Then you desire the lowest total cost of ownership, or ‘TCO’, possible, taking into account all the variables across that supply chain.
“Finally, sustainability is playing a role with a desire for low environmental impact and easy recycling.”
He added emerging trends within the industry include manufacturers movingtowards PET packaging that protects the liquid, offers a low TCO while being more sustainable.
On the consumer side, it has seen some innovative designs from some of the larger brand owners towards personalisation and peer-to-peer engagement driven by social media.
“Whilst those ideas are very innovative, and we love working on them with our partners, it actually comes back to the existing goal of enticing consumers. And then sustainability; is the packaging easily recyclable? Does it offer the lowest environmental footprint? With that you move into recycled PET, so called ‘R-PET’, and bio-PET using plant-based raw materials,” added Hancard.