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Too early to start praising PepsiCo for new plant bottle

By Guy Montague-Jones , 28-Mar-2011

Too early to start praising PepsiCo for new plant bottle

The new PepsiCo plant bottle appears to tick all the “green” boxes for a disposable drinks bottle but the innovation should not be taken too seriously until it arrives on shelves.

At first glance the bottle appears to be a major breakthrough. Like the Coca-Cola Plant Bottle it can be recycled with ordinary PET bottles but unlike its rival, which is currently 30 per cent plant–based, the PepsiCo bottle is made entirely from plant materials.

Not only that, but the plant materials are not specially grown for the packaging. The bottle is to be made from by-products of PepsiCo food and drink production so waste is made useful and the issues around using crops for non-food purposes are by-passed.

PepsiCo illustrates this with a photo showing the newly developed bottle planted between oranges, potatoes and oats – the scraps of which are its ingredients.

Long road to success

But the picture does not mean that the bottle is about to be used to pack PepsiCo drinks all around the world. In fact the innovation still has some hurdles to jump before it reaches the market.

PepsiCo said pilot production will begin in 2012 and “full scale commercialisation” is due to follow, so long as the pilot is successful.

But not every new product passes the test, and even when it does, it takes time to be rolled out across a large company like PepsiCo, especially if processes need to be changed, cost issues have to be addressed and capital investment has to be made.

For example, the Coca-Cola Plant Bottle was launched commercially in 2009 and the intention is to use the packaging for all its PET bottles by 2020 – that is over 10 years after first launch.

The PepsiCo bottle has not even reached the launch stage. And there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding the bottle. How can a consistent product be made from agricultural by-products that vary throughout the year? Does it really match PET on performance? What is the process that turns the plant material into the plastic bottle? And can the bottle be made cheaply and on a large enough scale?

Only when PepsiCo starts answering these questions and packaging products with its new bottle can we really judge the innovation. Until then the green bottle is just good marketing for PepsiCo.

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