PepsiCo to increase reusable beverage packaging

The beverage giant will build on its $3.2bn acquisition of at-home customized beverage maker SodaStream: as well as looking at other ways to increase reuse across its portfolio.

“Fundamentally transforming the traditional beverage consumption model will require making reusable and refillable options accessible and convenient, at scale, for consumers – and that’s what PepsiCo aims to do,”​ said Jim Andrew, Chief Sustainability Officer, PepsiCo.

“PepsiCo will accelerate our investment in disruptive innovation and advocate for policies that allow us to scale up reusable packaging options, platforms and programs so that we can offer consumers a wide variety of alternative ways to enjoy their favorite beverages while moving away from reliance on single-use packaging.”​ 

Four areas of focus

PepsiCo’s first area of innovation will be to build on its 2018 acquisition of SodaStream: pledging to expand the business both and home and through workplaces through SodaStream Professional.

“The widespread international availability of SodaStream and SodaStream Professional, and its continued growth, enables consumers to reinvent how they consume some of the world’s most loved beverage brands and personalize their choices in reusable containers, potentially eliminating the need for more than 200 billion plastic bottles by 2030,”​ says PepsiCo.

Secondly, it will increase its focus on refillable and returnable glass an plastic programs in major markets including Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Germany and the Philippines.

Thirdly, the company sees the potential to bring in more concentrated powders or tablet versions of certain beverages: not only cutting back on packaging but also allowing consumers to customize the drink to their own preferences in their own containers. This model is already used as an option for big-hitting sports drink Gatorade; as well as Propel, Muscle Milk and Evolve.

And in the foodservice channel, PepsiCo will work with partners to design and test new models to enable the scale up of reusable cups, a ‘critical component’ of supporting a reuse infrastructure alongside beverage fountains. It will do so via the Closed Loop Partners NextGen Consortium, which it joined last year.

Increased focus on reuse and refill

Much of the packaging sustainability focus in the beverage industry to date has been on recycling and using recycled content.

In October, however, Greenpeace published a highly critical report of this model: calling instead for an industry-wide rethink and a complete shift to reuse and refill.

And last week, the EU published packaging waste regulation proposals that will require companies to offer a certain percentage of products to consumers in reusable or refillable packaging​: for example takeaway drinks and meals or e-commerce deliveries. Meanwhile, certain forms of ‘clearly unnecessary’ packaging are set to be banned: such as single-use packaging for food and beverages when consumed inside restaurants and cafes.

Coca-Cola has already set targets this year to have at least 25% of worldwide beverage volume sold in either refillable/returnable glass or plastic bottles or in fountain dispensers with reusable packaging​ by 2030. (Traditional refillable/returnable packaging accounted for approximately 16% of the company’s total volumes in 2020).

PepsiCo currently offers ‘reuse solutions’ in 80 markets: estimating around 10% of packaging uses a reuse model. The new goals are part of its PepsiCo Positive (pep+) strategy: an ‘end-to-end business transformation that puts sustainability and people at the center of how the company will create growth and value’.

The new reuse goals and approaches have been aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “Reuse – Rethinking Packaging”​ framework. Working towards creating its reuse targets earlier this year, PepsiCo noted that ‘early forays into reusable packaging have shown us that we need different solutions for different markets and consumption occasions, and that leveraging technology to create a seamless consumer experience is critical to success’.

To this end, it highlighted an emphasis on ‘localized playbooks for multiple reuse models to help our markets and sectors deploy reusable and refillable packaging in ways that will be most appropriate to their local environment.’

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