Glass packaging finds favor with eco-conscious consumers for circular economy credentials
26 May 2023 --- In the dynamic landscape of packaging materials, glass has stood the test of time as a trusted and proven choice for health-conscious consumers, according to industry experts. Glass packaging continues to showcase its reusable and endlessly recyclable attributes, making it an eco-friendly option that resonates with consumers and manufacturers.
“Glass containers are the only food contact material that is ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ by the US Food and Drug Administration. Glass provides UV protection and does not interact with the beverage or food inside,” an O-I spokesperson tells PackagingInsights.
“There is nothing quite like glass. It is made of natural, readily available natural materials that do not harm the environment.”
According to global market researcher Innova Market Insights, alcoholic beverages and sauces and seasonings are the most common applications for glass packaging within F&B. Also, wine and beers are the subcategories with the most product launches, highlights the researcher.
Glass and consumers
Consumers are taking a more proactive approach to health and wellness. Retailers are rethinking product selection to target health-conscious shoppers, explains the O-I spokesperson.
Innova Market Insights found that consumers perceive glass to be the most reusable material compared to other conventional packaging materials, and third place for recyclability.
“Data shows that glass stands out in both food safety and product protection aspects compared to other materials. Consumers primarily look for product protection and containment when talking about packaging functions,” Xihan Ma, consumer insights analyst at Innova Market Insights, tells us.
“Ensuring the safety and quality of food through the food chain to the end-consumer simply helps minimize food waste and makes a significant contribution to sustainability.”
O-I adds: “According to a recent EcoFocus Consumer Trends Survey, 70% of grocery shoppers trust glass as a healthy packaging choice for their food and beverages. This same study shows that more than half of consumers actively seek products packaged in glass because they believe it protects the integrity of their foods and beverages.”
Price over sustainability
When considering the packaging factors that influence consumers’ choices, Innova Market Insights explains that for global consumers, it is logical to first consider the price, user convenience, food safety and quality, and then take environmental factors into account.
“Two-fifths of consumers globally indicated that they had increased their use of recyclable and reusable packaging in the past year,” says Ma.
“According to consumers, glass performs very well in food quality preservation and recyclability or reusability. Therefore, we can estimate that glass is a popular choice among consumers, but further investigation is needed to determine whether the demand for glass is growing or not.”
Glass4Good recycling program
Meanwhile, O-I sees a “tremendous” opportunity to positively impact the planet and communities where it operates through the Glass4Good recycling program.
“Glass4Good recycling is a community-based recycling program that incentivizes glass recycling by enhancing local recycling infrastructure with the potential of generating local charitable donations in the communities where O-I employees live and work,” explains the spokesperson.
“The program is focused on our shared communities, stimulating social impact, energizing economic development, advancing manufacturing aptitude and achieving a sustainable future.”
“It is an opportunity to provide glass recycling where it might not be available, but also an avenue for O-I to give back to the communities in a way that will encourage glass recycling. Glass4Good recycling includes exploring public-private partnerships to overcome glass recycling barriers and get glass packaging back into the circular economy.”
Juggling material shortages
Recently, companies have registered glass shortages. Vinventions secured a sales agreement with climate tech packaging business Packamama to expand the sale and distribution of Packamama’s eco-flat wine bottles in France as a result of the company’s glass bottle shortages.
“By partnering with Packamama, we can help wineries suffering from the shortage of glass bottles by proposing a PET bottle alternative. Moreover, the eco-flat bottle made from 100% recycled PET plastic will help wineries improve their CO2 footprint,” said Stéphane Vidal, head of innovation at Vinventions.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners in Germany invested over €40 million (US$43 million) into returnable glass bottles to improve its reusable packaging capabilities.
Last year, the German Brewers’ Association (GBA) warned of a shortage of beer bottles amid rising production costs and a lack of lorry drivers. PackagingInsights spoke with Nina Göllinger, the GBA’s press officer, about the shortages and possible underlying issues.
“The Brewers’ Association is appealing to consumers not to hoard empties in their cellars but to return them to retailers as soon as possible,” she said.
The O-I spokesperson concludes: “We believe glass is the perfect material for sustainably protecting and showcasing the food and beverage products that are part of our daily lives. We also understand that the sustainability of any product depends on the sustainability of the processes and relationships the organization uses to produce it.”
By Natalie Schwertheim
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