Great potential for innovative beverage cartons

Scan von Getränkekarton

Sustainability is currently dominating beverage carton development. This appears in changes to material quality, novel cap solutions and design modifications. Even when it comes to filling beverage cartons, mechanical engineers are improving the ecological footprint. Last but not least, there are digital possibilities for making beverage cartons interactive and allowing communication between manufacturers and customers.

Manufacturers are working on an environmentally friendly beverage carton

The efforts to make beverage cartons more environmentally friendly are paying off. For example, in February 2021, Norwegian packaging manufacturer Elopak passed the threshold of selling one billion beverage cartons made with Natural Brown Board. According to the manufacturer, these naturally brown, Pure-Pak cartons are fully recyclable and, by using less wood and no bleach, have a lower CO2 footprint than traditional white cartons. Moreover, the authentic and natural appearance of Natural Brown Board visually indicates its sustainability. The Norwegian firm calculates that it has saved 3,000 tons of greenhouse gases since its market introduction.

Natural appearance of Elopak’s gable-top cartons

In 2019, there was already a high demand for Natural Brown Board cartons, the sales volume rose. Today, approximately 20% of Elopak milk cartons in Western Europe are manufactured from the material.

“Our customers are complying with the consumer wish to protect the environment. Many offer organic, environmentally friendly or otherwise sustainably produced products. Therefore, they demand a packaging solution that conveys these values and their environmental commitment. With its unbleached, natural appearance, the Pure-Pak Carton made with Natural Brown Board immediately communicates sustainability,” says Patrick Verhelst, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Elopak.

Elopak developed its gable-top cartons, made with Natural Brown Board, together with Stora Enso. And it was the first manufacturer to offer them back in 2017. Stora Enso is a Finnish-Swedish corporation and – in terms of production capacity – is the second largest forestry contractor worldwide, as well as one of the largest manufacturers of paper and packaging materials.

Elopak Aufbau Getränkekarton
Structure of the successful Natural Brown Board from Elopak (Picture: © Elopak)

Notable customers opted for Natural Brown Board beverage cartons even shortly before its market introduction. These include the likes of Arla, one of the first dairy producers to use this innovation for its organic brand “Eko” in Sweden. Several customers went one step further and even removed the plastic cap. For example, the Norwegian dairy producer Tine switched from a white carton with a cap to the Natural Brown Board carton with no cap in September 2020. According to Elopak, this caused their CO2 footprint to drop by approximately 40%.

Pure Pak Getränkekarton
On the market since 2020: The Pure-Pak Imagine beverage carton with no screw cap. (Picture: © Elopak)

Bjørn Malm, Head of Sustainability for Tine, says: “By removing the renewable plastic cap on Tine’s organic milk, we are reducing our plastic consumption by at least five tons each year.”

Since its launch, Elopak’s Natural Brown Board has helped launch further sustainability innovations – such as Pure-Pak Imagine, presented in 2020. Without a screw cap, it uses approximately 46% less plastic than the standard carton.

According to the manufacturer’s claims, the natural brown carton and the use of renewable polyethylene (PE) in the barriers makes it the most environmentally friendly packaging in their portfolio to date.

The end of plastic caps at FrieslandCampina

The Dutch company FrieslandCampina also took this step with its Campina Organic product line by removing all plastic and focusing on sustainable packaging material in February this year. The fully wood-based liter packaging (Pure-Pak Imagine beverage carton) is equipped with a pouring opening that makes the plastic screw top redundant. This prevents the production of millions of plastic screw caps. Additionally, no whitening layer means that the unbleached brown carton is directly visible.

According to the brand this reduces the CO₂ emissions of the new packaging by at least 37% as compared to the old packaging. The remaining CO₂ emissions will be compensated, thus ensuring that it remains climate-neutral.

“The new packaging of Campina Organic – without the screw cap – offers a simple way to contribute to the reduction of CO₂ emissions and plastic waste. We are introducing this packaging because we strive to make our entire packaging portfolio completely circular and CO₂ neutral, as well as to further lower the packaging material volume.”

According to Bas Roelofs, Managing Director FrieslandCampina Consumer Dairy Netherlands, this is one of the priorities of the FrieslandCampina ‘Nourishing a better planet’ sustainability program.

Campina Milchprodukte Verpackung
Friesland Campina is doing away with plastic caps and has switched to the Pure-Pak Imagine beverage carton for its organic line since February. (Picture: © Elopak)

Filling beverage cartons in a more sustainable way

But it’s not just the packaging – the filling of beverage cartons is also being made as sustainable as possible by using modern technology to minimize the ecological footprint.

High water savings thanks to SIG filling machines

When it comes to the further development of filling lines, SIG has focused in large part on saving water. Technical upgrades to third-generation filling machines will enable the cutting of consumption in half. This latest water-saving innovation is integrated into every new high-speed filling machine from SIG, which can fill 24,000 small-format cartons each hour.

Furthermore, the new technology is available for most filling machines for beverage cartons up to 1,100 milliliters, which have a capacity of 12,000 cartons per hour.

The majority of third generation SIG filling machines, for both small and medium-sized packaging that are already installed, can also be equipped with a retrofitting kit for water reduction.

As Holger Schmidt, Head of Product Management Technology at SIG, explains: “Our new technology for saving water, including the retrofitting kit, ensures that water pressure is reduced, water flows more slowly and less is used. This enables us to save up to 350 liters per hour. The water consumption savings mean that the new technology will pay for itself in the long term – it benefits both the business and the environment.”

SIG Wasser Sparen
Technical upgrades enable water-consumption reduction in new and existing third-generation SIG filling-machines by up to 50%. (Picture: © SIG)

Digitalization of packaging solutions

The development of sustainable packaging solutions on multiple levels is undoubtedly the big topic facing beverage carton manufacturers. Another important topic high on the agenda is the matter of digitalization, as well as the opportunities it offers for creating interactive communication between brand and consumer.

Connected with Connected Pacs from SIG

There’s simply no question about it: In the digital age, consumers, retailers and beverage manufacturers are better informed than ever before. Therefore, information must be as up-to-date, simple and accessible as possible. To this end, beverage companies must require packaging solutions that provide valuable product information simply and in real time. This will enable them to improve their supply chains quality and support their management.

The innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Packaging are opening up ever more opportunities for highly efficient tracking and intelligent interaction. Solutions, such as Pac.Trust and Pac.Engage from SIG, address these issues, and can transform each product into a data-driven source of information and media.

A matter of trust – Pac.Trust

While the markets are growing, and distribution must keep pace with developments, food and beverage manufacturers are facing growing challenges. In turn, food security and transparency have become even more important than ever.

For example, the digital solution Pac.Trust uses new tracking opportunities and ensures the complete traceability of each pack through pack serialization and robust backend technologies. Pac.Trust enables producers to track their products along the supply chain and optimize their production and transport services using real-time information. At the sales level, the product can be tracked from raw material to point-of-sale. For retail, traceability means fewer problems with food security and the possibility to quickly and cost-effectively recall products. Lastly, the QR-code in each product provides consumers with information about the origins of raw materials, product processing data and proof of product authenticity.

The digital line to consumers – Pac.Engage

SIG Vorteile Karton
Consumers and the brand can communicate in an interactive way via the QR code. (Picture: © SIG).

According to SIG, 80 percent of millennials expect to be entertained by brands. As it turns out, packaging can contribute to this, for example digital connectivity with the help of the Pac.Engage online marketing solution. The system offers various opportunities for communicating with consumers directly on the packaging. This allows for the scanning of individual QR-codes with a smartphone to start an interaction in the form of raffles, loyalty programs or quizzes. Flexible modules can be adapted for each brand and generate  valuable insights and meaningful data about buyers for manufacturers. These promotion sites can also generate more traffic for the manufacturers’ social media platforms and product websites.

Ayed Katrangi, Senior Product Manager of Digital Marketing at SIG says: “IoT and the innovations it brings in the area of connected packaging opens up new and creative ways of tracking and interaction. Our Pac.Engage solution enables each product to act as a data-driven source of information and media.”

Expanding possibilities – One Cap, One Code

SIG has since expanded the spectrum of its Pac.Engage QR-code solution to caps: “One Cap, One Code” is the name of the digital solution for caps to be brought onto the market initially with the Combi Go cap for on-the-go packaging. It enables beverage industry manufacturers to place QR-codes on the inside of the caps so that they are only visible once the consumer has opened them. “QR-codes hidden in caps have a particularly personal note,” says Hanno Bertling, Senior Product Manager of Closures at SIG. “This new consumer  communication type offers our customers unique and entertaining opportunities in online marketing.”

What sounds simple and efficient in theory has already been put into practice: the first customer to utilize the One Cap, One Code solution was the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co, one of the largest milk producers in China. The early adopter brought “Perfect Love” fruit yogurt onto the market, with a QR code in the cap that led the consumer to a we-chat mini-program full of funny content to provide information and entertainment. The introduction of this latest online marketing solution has aided Yili in benefiting from close cooperation with SIG and can encourage even more offline consumers to buy online and create a systematic customer database. This data collection offers valuable opportunities for the company’s long-term brand strategy.

Would you like to find out about current trends on the beverage market and exchange professional information? Then we invite you to take part in the next drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 12 to 16, 2022.

This article is powered by Verlag W. Sachon.

Verlag W. Sachon

The publishing house W. Sachon, headquartered at Mindelburg Castle, publishes nine established trade journals that regularly provide their readers with exciting and interesting information. The emphasis lies in the brewing and beverage industry. The specialized publications are published in German, English, Spanish and Mandarin. A national and an international newsletter as well as an SMS Executive Flash complete the print offer digitally.