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Drink Up: Trends for Beverage Packaging

Poor soda, getting all that negative attention. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg went after large size sodas (and failed—now being appealed), and now San Francisco has entered the fray. In 2013, soda drink sales dropped by 7% for low-calorie versions and 2% for regular versions, according to this article in Time magazine.

On the other hand, what’s bad news for soft drinks is good news for competitors in the beverage market. Consumers are thinking more about artificial sweeteners, processed foods, sugar and other ingredients that go into soda – now, they’re looking for alternatives. Here are a few sectors that are experiencing growth:

Water and “Healthy” Drinks: The average diet soda drinker seems to be replacing a can of Diet Coke with a carton of coconut water (Coca-Cola just bought ZICO coconut water, evidence they’re planning for the future of American drink preferences). On the other hand, consumers might be sticking with plain, old water, which should make Nestlé Corporation happy as they dominant roughly 30% of the U.S. marketshare for bottled water.

Tea and Coffee: According to a recent report from Markets and Markets, ready-to-drink tea and coffee products are a hot market. Consumers are buying these drinks instead of sodas because of their perceived health benefits—especially tea’s antioxidant properties—so big companies are rushing to fill that demand.

Sports and Energy Drinks: Sugar-loaded sports drinks and energy drinks have both experienced the ire of the scientific and medical communities with claims that sports drinks and energy drinks were the reason for 20,000 visits to emergency rooms last year (doubled from the previous year), and have serious problems if mixed them with alcohol. Consumers, however, are still buying. Monster Beverage’s sales increased by 9% this year, and global sales of energy drinks are doubling each year.

Soda: Not all is lost for our fizzy friends. Sales of gourmet soda—aimed at adults, with often sophisticated flavors, incorporating natural sweeteners like Stevia, honey, and agave—are growing. Brands including GuS, Reed’s, and Q Tonic have all had healthy sales growth this year, according to a BevNet.com article.

So What’s In Store for Beverage Packaging?

Three letters: PET – better yet, the growing demand for PET beverage containers. According to a recent panel discussion on the subject, over 5 million metric tons of new PET manufacturing is expected in 2014. Bioplastics—which are fabricated from plant-based materials—are becoming more popular.

Boxes for beverages are also on the increase. Juice boxes have been around for years, but they traditional formats are almost impossible to recycle, unless specialty facilities exist. New developments for boxes, which are being used for wines, teas, and even water, mean recycling is getting easier because the box and the inner pouch can be separated. Boxes are also durable, lightweight and stackable, which are advantages for shipping and shelving.

Glass bottles are still number one for drinks packaging. Cans are a distant second, according to this chart. Brand owners are trying to close that gap with innovations that aim to place cans alongside glass in consumer’s minds (i.e. a high-quality, safe product), like using thermocromic inks, liners to protect the taste of the beverage and plastic caps to instill a sense of safety and hygiene.

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