Packaging: Glass or Plastic?

Sobe glass bottle

There’s always been the debate about beverages moving away from glass bottles and replacing it with plastic bottles.  It happened to Minute Maid juices, it happened to Sobe, and for a short time it happened to Nestea (during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics all the Nesteas came in plastic bottles within Olympics venues).  Consumers have been divided on this issue because glass bottles preserve the taste better, but plastic bottles are much better for the manufacturer and retailer.  Plastic bottles are cheaper to produce, lighter to transport from the bottling plant to the retailer’s shelf and cooler, and also less likely to break.  Not to mention, profits are also higher with plastic bottles.  So in the end, who wins?

Odwalla PlantBottle

More often than not, it would seem that the manufacturers wins.  When Minute Maid juices changed their packaging, consumers either had to embrace the change, or switch to Tropicana, Dole, Sunkist, or private label juices.  Although some consumers switched to another juice product, all the offerings used plastic bottles.  So in the end, the packaging change still saw consumers embrace this change.

However, as sustainability and recycling has become forefront issues, consumers are seeing the benefits of plastic bottles.  In an article by Beverage World’s Andrew Kaplan, eco-sensitive packaging can be found in almost all beverage categories (link here).  Dr. Benjamin Punchard, Euromonitor International’s head of global packaging research says, “From what we see, the main response to environmental need is still lightweighting.  This is not a new development as producers have long understood the cost savings that lightweighting can deliver, but there is now increased imperative to take lightweighting the extra mile. The knowledge that this can be communicated to the client as an environmental benefit has seen lightweighting move from a covert action to an overt advertising opportunity.”  Lightweighting refers to is the transition from glass to plastic bottles.

What  Dr. Punchard reports about packaging change being an overt advertising opportunity is very true.  Take Coca-Cola for example, where they publicly advertise about the plant bottle used for Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, and Odwalla.  Since consumers are more environmentally conscious, publicizing their eco-friendly packaging serves as a fantastic selling point to recruit and maintain customers.  One has to wonder what the effect this newer sustainable packaging has had on their sales.

It’s not certain whether remaining glass bottle beverages will be making the change to plastic, as each format has it’s own unique benefits.  With the exception of premium waters (San Pellingrino, VOSS, Perrier) and specific beverage lines (Nestea, New Leaf tea, Jones Soda, and Orangina), almost all single serve bottled beverages within a grocery store’s cooler have changed to plastic bottles.  Though taste preferences are strong factors in determining what you drink, if a beverage changed to a plastic bottle, would this alone make you want to purchase the product more than before?  Manufacturers and retailers are betting yes on this.

One thought on “Packaging: Glass or Plastic?

  1. Mark M

    I stopped buying Sobe after it went to a plastic bottle.
    I don’t drink anything out of plastic.
    Tastes different, and plastic is poison if exposed to light and heat in car or during transport prior to the store.
    I use steel or glass container for water I bring in car where it might get hot.
    I definitely miss Sobe in glass.
    Also don’t drink out of aluminum cans, don’t want the BPA liner.
    Better to buy dark glass bottle beer or bottled soda when I drink it.


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