UK companies embrace paper bottle packaging for alcoholic beverages, says GlobalData

The trend of alcoholic beverage companies in the UK replacing glass packaging with bottles made of paper has picked up pace. Recently, Aldi, a prominent retailer, introduced wine in bottles made using 94% recycled paperboard, containing a food-grade pouch. The retailer’s initiative follows Absolut Vodka’s decision to commercialize single-mold paper bottles in June 2023. Sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and disruptions in the supply of glass in recent years are major factors behind this shift, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Neralla Rama Ravi Teja, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Sustainability has become an important concern for manufacturers and consumers alike. According to a recent GlobalData consumer survey, being sustainable/environmentally friendly is essential or nice to have for 65% of consumers in the UK*. Frugalpac, a paperboard bottle manufacturer, claims that its bottles have a carbon footprint roughly six times smaller than traditional glass bottles.”

While glass is bio-degradable unlike plastic, the consumption of sand in large quantities for glass manufacturing is a concern. Large-scale sand mining creates serious ecological problems, such as soil erosion and land deterioration. It can also harm coastal communities by making them more susceptible to floods and endangering marine life. As a result, the shift towards alternatives to glass in the alcoholic beverages sector is picking up momentum.

Teja continues: “Glass being heavier than paperboard uses more fuel for transit. The escalation of the Russia–Ukraine crisis pushed up fuel prices sharply in the UK and triggered a cost-of-living crisis. Cutting down their fuel bills moved up in manufacturers’ priority list after the conflict escalated and caused fuel supply chain disruptions.

“One strategy to mitigate fuel costs involves reducing packaging weight to decrease fuel consumption per unit during transit. Given its lighter weight compared to glass, paperboard has emerged as an appealing option for alcoholic beverage manufacturers. Moreover, with the rising trend of home delivery of alcoholic drinks picking up, lighter packaging has become the need of the hour.”

The importance of convenience, ease of carrying, and portability continues to rise, driving the demand for lighter-weight packaging. By being easy to carry, alcoholic beverages sold in lightweight packaging formats such as metal cans and paperboard bottles offer more flexibility to consumers in terms of consumption.

Teja concludes: “Along with these factors, the instability in glass supply has compelled beverage manufacturers to look for alternative packaging solutions. In addition to hampering fuel supply, the Russia–Ukraine conflict delivered a severe blow to glass availability in Europe. Russian airstrikes damaged Ukrainian glass production facilities severely in early 2022, resulting in a shortage of the material and subsequent price increases in Europe. Vetropack, one of the leading glass manufacturers in Europe, resumed its operations in Ukraine only in May 2023. The Russia–Ukraine conflict disrupted all sectors that depend on glass in the UK and forced them to innovate.”

*GlobalData Q3 2023 Consumer Survey – the UK, with 532 respondents, published in October 2023