Beer drinkers in Germany may soon have more opportunities to purchase beer in PET than any other European country, thanks in part to the recent introduction of a scheme to introduce hefty recycling fees for the use of aluminium cans.
Major supermarket chain Aldi recently confirmed with the financial publication Wirtschafts Woche that because of the new deposit law, it no longer intends to sell beer in cans. This allows the giant discount chain operator to save costs related to the return of cans and allow time for the development of a system for returnable packaging.
Instead of cans, Aldi is planning to offer its customers beer in PET bottles, a decision which, according to Amcor PET Packaging Europe/Asia, is indicative of a growing trend in the drinks market.
Amcor (formerly Schmalbach-Lubeca), world market leader in PET drinks packaging, has invested substantially in recent years to develop PET bottles for beer that can compete successfully with any other form of packaging in terms of both product and package performance. Indeed, several brewers have already responded to these initiatives.
"We have always paid close attention to the demands of our customers for convenient packaging. We are seeing increasing interest in our ability to provide our products in PET," said Andreas Rost, chief executive officer of Hamburg-based Holsten Breweries.
While beer can be packed in either standard or barrier PET, Amcor believes that barrier solutions, such as its own AmGuard multi-layer bottles, will be key to PET's adoption among brewers across Europe. (AmGuard refers to Amcor's triple-layer bottles, which can incorporate an active or passive barrier.)
Beer is a very sensitive beverage with a high level of carbon dioxide. Leakage due to porous packaging leads to 'flatness'. Also, taste distortion results if oxygen seeps in. Since PET is more porous than glass or aluminium, beer filled in standard PET bottles will have very limited shelf life. In contrast, beer in barrier PET packaging can achieve shelf life of more than six months.
"We have always been confident that PET is poised to achieve wholesale market penetration for beer packaging," said Phil Gunning, vice president of sales and marketing at Amcor PET Packaging Europe/Asia.
"The only issue to be resolved has been reconciling the economics of PET versus a glass or can equivalent. This can be achieved with a serious volume commitment and we believe Aldi's announcement will go a long way to making this happen."
Amcor has offered barrier PET solutions for beer for the past six years. Its AmGuard bottles range for beer incorporates the company's pioneering Bind-Ox technology to provide shelf life of nine months and more for the product. Whereas normal barrier technology impedes oxygen entry, Bind-Ox technology is said to trap the oxygen and bind it into the bottle wall, thus preventing it from reaching the beer. Tests on this technology have shown that even after 12 months, the bottle continues to prevent oxygen ingress, Amcor claims.
PET's positive environmental profile is also a major factor in increased retailer interest in PET beer packaging, believes Amcor. For example, Amcor multi-layer bottles can contain up to 50 per cent recycled material if requested by customers, thus helping to avoid the new eco-tax in Belgium, which is planned to come into effect on 20th March 2003.
There are currently more than 20 beer brands that have been launched in multi-layer PET on the European market. Over half of these are in AmGuard bottles, including Karlsberg, Holsten and Tucher in Germany. Currently Amcor offers the most substantial production capacity for multi-layer PET beer bottles in Europe.
Amcor PET Packaging is the leading producer of PET packaging in the worldwith 51 plants operating in 20 countries, two of which are bottle-to-bottlerecycling plants, as well as 16 facilities on-site with customers in six countries, plus three R&D Centres. The group produces PET preforms and bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, milk, hot-fill beverages, alcoholic beverages, food and non-food applications.