Sustainability-in-Tech : Paper Packaging … Vodka Be Better?

Absolut Vodka has begun a 3-month trial of its first commercially available single-mould, paper-based bottle.  

Trial – 22 Tesco Stores In Greater Manchester  

As part of what it describes as its “journey to create a fully bio-based bottle”, Swedish vodka brand Absolut is holding a trial of the 500ml-sized single-mould paper bottles in 22 Tesco’s stores in the Greater Manchester area (priced £16 each).  

Gathering Feedback  

The trial will be used to gather feedback and insights from Absolut’s consumers, retailers, and supply chain partners about how the paper-based bottles are transported and perceived by customers. 

Mostly Paper … With A Plastic Barrier  

The paper-based bottles are, in fact, 57 per cent paper and include an integrated barrier of recyclable plastic and were created in collaboration with Paboco (the Paper Bottle Company). Paboco is understood to also be working with other global brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Carlsberg, P&G and L’Oréal to help the drinks and packaging industries create more sustainable packaging.  

Carbon Neutral By 2030  

It is hoped that the paper-based vodka bottles will be another step towards helping Absolut reach its target of making its vodka a carbon neutral product by 2030. Its distillery, for example, emits 98 per cent fewer emissions than the average distillery, and the new bottles will be a prerequisite for the company being able to meet this goal is in reducing the carbon footprint of its packaging. 

Glass Is Recyclable … So Why Is Paper Better? 

Although standard glass bottles are also recyclable, Absolut says the paper-based bottles are eight times lighter and easier to carry. This will save costs in transportation and energy consumption during shipping as well as being an improvement in terms of sustainability and carbon reduction.  

New Market Opportunities Too 

Also, the fact that paper-based bottles offer greater design flexibility compared to glass means they could be moulded into different shapes and sizes, allowing for innovative and customisable packaging options, thereby allowing the company to create new, differentiated, and segmented products that stand out from competing vodka brands. This idea was evident when Elin Furelid, Director of Future Packaging at Absolut commented “We are exploring packaging that has a completely different value proposition. Paper is tactile; it’s beautiful; it’s authentic; it’s light. That was our starting point”. 

Absolut says it believes consumers will use the paper bottles in out-of-home occasions such as festivals. For example, festivals such as Glastonbury ban festival-goers from taking glass bottles inside. It may transpire, therefore, that the packaging also offers another way for Absolut to appeal to and further establish itself among younger drinkers. 

Sustainable Future 

Elin also said of the paper-based bottles: “We want consumers and partners to join our journey towards a more sustainable future. Together we can develop packaging solutions that people want and the world needs. That’s why bold partnerships with like-minded organisations to test the waters are going to be evermore crucial on our net zero journey.” 

Absolut And AI 

Absolut is a brand that has also made the news through becoming the world’s first vodka brand to visually develop cocktail art using AI. In Canada, the company compiled a list of cocktail ingredients from different Canadian cities, put them into an AI platform, and asked it to mix cocktail artwork celebrating each neighbourhood.  

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

This paper-based packaging represents not just a way for the vodka brand to help meet its green targets, reduce its carbon footprint, and improve sustainability in its packaging but it also has many commercial advantages. For example, because it’s lightweight it can reduce transport costs (and shipping energy consumption) and its flexibility as a packaging medium compared to glass could enable innovative and differentiated packaging designs that can enhance the brand, help market new products, and allow easier segmentation and targeting. The example of AI being used to generate designs drawing upon different city cocktail preferences, combined with limited runs of paper-based packaging show what could be possible in terms of targeting. Absolut’s paper-based bottle trial is only 3 months dureation, and it will be alongside normal glass bottles, nevertheless it’s an example of how sustainability innovations could help lower the carbon footprint of the drinks industry and could provide an energy and cost-saving replacement to glass bottles for many different products in the near future as well as helping the recycling industry. 

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