Why glass bottle manufacturing needs to make a comeback
by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized
Glass may be more expensive and difficult to produce, but it meets these changing demands where plastics fail to.
Plastic packaging has been one of the most dominant beverage industry trends over the past few decades. However, as consumer attitudes shift and other concerns rise, it may be time to switch back to glass bottles.
Plastic, especially polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is the material of choice for 71.1% of soft drink containers. It’s cheap, flexible and easy to produce, but moving back to glass bottles has many advantages. Here are a few of the most significant.
The leading reason to switch to glass is sustainability. As climate issues grow more prevalent, that sustainability becomes more important. The beverage industry’s reliance on PET and similar materials carries a substantial ecological footprint. Just 14% of plastic is recycled, leading to 8 million tons of non-biodegradable waste leaking into the oceans yearly. Only a fraction of the already low number of recycled plastics goes to making more packaging materials.
By contrast, glass is 100% recyclable and can break down into sand easily when not recycled. While meeting demand during the hot summer months can sometimes be a challenge due to increased temperatures in production plants, air-cooled chillers are one way glass bottle manufacturers can maintain their goal temperatures of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. One manufacturer was even able to ramp production to 15 thousand bottles daily using this method, increasing their bottom line.
Additionally, beverage companies can even clean and reuse intact bottles, making them even more resource-efficient. This reusability far outweighs any energy increases from glass production.
As people grow more eco-conscious, glass’s recyclability will also become an increasingly effective marketing tool. Consumers may avoid plastic packaging in favour of glass bottles out of a desire to reduce their own impact on the environment.
A 2019 study revealed that 73% of consumers believed glass is the most appropriate packaging for healthy foods. These beliefs largely stem from environmental perceptions, but notions of quality could play into them, too. Shoppers understand that glass is more expensive than plastic, so glass bottles may carry the connotation of containing a more premium product.
In either case, these preferences should influence beverage industry trends. Consumers are starting to lean toward glass and manufacturers should accommodate that demand.
Glass bottles also have some health and safety advantages over plastic containers. Plastics can contain hazardous chemicals that could potentially leak into products, while glass is nontoxic and less porous, eliminating concerns around health-impacting chemicals.
It’s important to note that most modern plastics are completely safe, but misuse could lead to these chemicals leaching, and consumer perceptions are often more impactful than reality. If people think plastics are unsafe, even if they technically aren’t, they’ll prefer to buy other materials.
Chemical content aside, glass is easier to glean and sanitize than plastic, which can help prevent contamination. With foodborne diseases causing 48 million illnesses annually in the U.S., any improvement is important. As beverage industry trends shift toward higher health standards, glass products’ sanitation benefits grow increasingly significant.
Beverage Industry Trends Shifting
Glass may be more expensive and difficult to produce, but it meets these changing demands where plastics fail to. As a result, the better brand perception and potential sales could make up for it.
Glass may have fallen out of favour among many beverage manufacturers decades ago, but it’s time for that trend to reverse. Growing sustainability concerns, shifting consumer sentiment and foodborne safety perceptions make glass bottles a better choice on many fronts.