The soft drinks sector has traditionally been at the forefront of packaging innovation, having helped to establish formats such as Tetra-Pak and PET bottles in mainstream retail.

Innovation has continued apace in 2010 with lightweighting at the heart of suppliers' efforts to improve the environmental credentials of their products. PepsiCo-owned juice brand Copella launched new resized and lightweight bottles in 2010. The new 750ml bottle is 10% lighter and the 1.25l bottle 39% lighter.

PepsiCo claims production of these lighter-weight bottles generates 1,070 fewer tonnes of emissions a year.

Bottle caps for Copella and Tropicana cartons have also been improved, reducing CO2 by a further 342 tonnes per annum. One of the most noteworthy packaging innovations has been Red Bull's first move into a PET bottle. 

After several trials, the 330ml PET bottle is Red Bull's first permanent bottled SKU. Initial sales from the March launch have been encouraging, says Doug Bairner, Red Bull head of category marketing.

"The vast majority of soft drinks now are sold in PET," he says. "It's obviously a convenient format for people in terms of its resealability and portability, and because the vast majority of the functional drinks sector is in cans, we saw the opportunity to give people that choice."

Although manufacturers are striving to offer consumers more environmentally friendly formats, their rate of innovation is often not matched by those responsible for recycling policy.

"The biggest challenge is that councils don't have the resources to recycle what suppliers can make bottles out of," says Rachel Deacon, client services director at fmcg marketing agency Life Agency, whose clients have included Coca-Cola and Lucozade. "Until we have a coherent recycling policy in the UK, I don't think there's much more the manufacturers can do."

In March, however, CCE announced a venture with ECO Plastics to develop a new purpose-built recycling facility in Lincolnshire. It claims the facility will more than double the amount of high-quality rPET (PET that is recycled to make food-grade, sustainable packaging) currently produced in Britain.

Focus On Soft Drinks