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Consumers show a clear preference for glass packaging

Rebecca Cocking

Rebecca Cocking on factors covering the selection of the right packaging materials

Celebrating tradition has been in the news a lot recently. The royal wedding gave Britain the chance to show the world why, when it comes to putting on an old-fashioned pomp and circumstance event, we are in a league of our own. And, across the pond, Coca-Cola and Heinz have been making the most of their own historic credentials to mark key anniversaries of their most famous creations: Ketchup and a bottle of Coca-Cola.

Interestingly, both of these iconic brands chose to celebrate their status as modern thriving businesses with the very thing that begun their road to success: the product packed in its original glass bottle. But why should going back to the past be seen as a smart move when 24/7 news channels and Twitter make this morning’s story old hat by teatime?

The answer, according to Noel Geoffroy, vice-president of Heinz Brands, is simple: it’s what his customers want.

“Consumers still associate Heinz Ketchup with our iconic glass bottle and routinely ask where they can find them,” he said. “In response to that demand, and to inspire memories of and relive good times from summers past, we wanted to bring back the glass bottle with a limited-edition design that gives a nod to the product’s 135-year history.”

But it’s not just Heinz and Coca-Cola which have shown they know the special value of glass. A Europe-wide survey by the independent research consultancy InSites on behalf of FEVE, the European container glass federation, shows that glass remains consumers’ preference for food and drinks.

“Glass is perceived to keep food fresh, and is the packaging choice of favourite brands”

The study, conducted in December 2010, polled more than 8,000 consumers across 17 countries for their packaging views. It revealed three key reasons why, for 74% of Europeans, glass continues to be a firm favourite. These were: it preserves the taste of its contents; it is considered to be healthy and safe; and it is environmentally friendly. In the UK, consumers’ top reasons included that glass kept food and drink fresh longer and it was the packaging choice of favourite brands.

Another interesting finding highlighted the mismatch between consumers’ preference for certain products to be packaged in glass and availability. It was found that 39% of European consumers wanted to drink mineral water from glass, 40% preferred juice in glass and 39% wanted milk in glass bottles, if it was available.

As those given the task will know, specifying the best packaging materials for their products is incredibly difficult. Striking the right balance when so many factors are in play is not easy.

But knowing that consumers are in favour of the world’s most recyclable material will, we hope, make the decision a little easier. In fact, consumers voted glass top in all the key performance categories used in the InSites study: environmental friendliness, recyclability, waste and pollution impact and safety for health.

The enduring appeal of glass is perhaps a surprise to those who believe customers want their food and drink packaged only in the latest highly engineered materials. While new technologies have their place, the lesson is that sometimes the best packaging solution is the one already staring us in the face.

Rebecca Cocking is recycling manager at British Glass

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