Two major alcoholic beverage brands have taken bold steps towards improving drinks packaging sustainability. As ethical credentials become increasingly prominent markers of quality, sustainable packaging is likely to become a heated battleground for premium alcohol producers.
Earlier this month the premium whisky brand Glenlivet unveiled a limited-edition set of cocktails served inside clear, edible capsules made of seaweed extract. Much of the response to the capsules was derisive. Unfortunately the product was compared to Tide Pods, a line of laundry detergent pods manufactured by Procter & Gamble. Such a reaction was to be expected, given the radical nature of the launch. It is an extreme departure from the familiar – particularly for a product as steeped in tradition as whisky.
More recently, Danish beer company Carlsberg revealed its own plans to produce the world’s first “paper bottle” for beer. The container is made from sustainably sourced wood fibres with an inner barrier to allow the bottles to reliably contain beer.
Improving drinks packaging sustainability is important for consumers
That both companies made these ambitious innovations is indicative of how the priorities of consumer products companies are shifting. They are doing so to place themselves in line with new consumer preferences and expectations. GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 consumer survey found that 71% of global consumers consider it “quite” or “extremely” important for product packaging to be made from sustainable or renewable sources. Only 25% considered it important for packaging to have a luxury appearance. This is particularly significant for the alcoholic beverage sector, in which image and indulgence are paramount. While these factors are still relevant there has been a definite shift of consciousness. Consumer sentiment now suggests that the gratification associated with consumption of premium products increasingly incorporates considerations around ethical consciousness. Therefore it is important to ensure that a brand’s values align with those of the individual consuming the product.
Premium brands will need to risk the possibility of failure – and even short-term ridicule – as sustainability becomes inextricably linked with quality. Just making the effort will inevitably draw the attention of ethically-minded consumers.