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How soft packaging is shaking up the beverage industry

Beverage packaging is changing.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Cans and bottles have served as the main container types in the beverage industry for an eternity, but these tried and true methods of beverage packaging are slowly being phased out in certain applications. New options that cut down on container breakage and offer increased efficiency throughout the supply chain are poised to become huge in the decades to come.

These new variations in beverage packaging include soft-packaging and cardboard boxes. While these options aren't suitable for every application, they do offer advantages for particular types of beverages, and may gain wider acceptance from both manufacturers and consumers in the coming years. These new packaging systems offer market differentiation and can cut shipping costs, which makes them an exciting prospect for beverage companies around the world. 

A shift in what consumers want
Recent years have brought significant change to the beverage packaging industry as manufacturers tweak their products to appeal to customers' tastes and increase their operational efficiency. In the past, carbonated sodas were king of the beverage roost, but that's not the case anymore. 

Carbonated soft drinks have seen their market share decline for 10 consecutive years, according to The Wall Street Journal. While they're still some of the most-consumed beverages on the planet, soft drinks don't have the pop they once did. The companies that manufacture soft drinks and other beverages are in a strong position, however, as consumers are still interested in packaged drinks. In fact, consumption of non-alcoholic beverages rose 2.3 percent in the past year, but the gains were from outside the soda market, according to research and consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corporation.

"Non-alcoholic beverage consumption is up."

The gains came from bottled water consumption, which has skyrocketed alongside growing health consciousness in America. The sales of bottled water products, including flavored variants, have leapt up as people shift their habits toward what they perceive as healthier options. As manufacturers alter their product lines to accommodate this shift, they also have the ability to change the way they package drinks. Non-carbonated beverages offer packaging freedom that carbonated drinks lack. 

Flexibility is the key
Traditionally, beverage containers have been rigid and constructed out of glass, plastic or metal. This is a necessary feature for carbonated beverage packaging, but still drinks can be packaged in novel ways that break the mold. 

Flexible packaging, which resembles a plastic pouch, has rapidly become an important part of the food industry because it allows manufacturers to maximize space when shipping certain types of goods, according to research firm Markets and Markets. This type of packaging has the potential to impact the way non-carbonated beverages are sold as well. Cardboard packaging is already widely used to ship fruit juice and milk, and it offers some benefits over solid bottles and cans, according to Fast Company.

Cardboard and flexible packages can be shipped to the bottling plant flat, which minimizes the space they take up during shipping. This cuts costs for the beverage company and reduces the strain on shippers. 

Consumer tastes might change, but the beverage industry is ready to adapt. Part of that adjustment is a move to innovative packaging solutions that make life easier for businesses throughout the supply chain.