Pepsi Co. is reducing the amount of plastic used to make its bottled water bottles in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reported.
The new 16.9-oz. Aquafina bottle weighs about 20% less than the previous version and is among the lightest in the U.S. In addition, the company is shrink-wrapping its 24-pack of half-liter Aquafina bottles in pallets with no cardboard base pad, eliminating 20 million pounds of corrugated cardboard by next year, and bottlers are now blowing and filling bottles at the same plant, to reduce the amount of energy used, as well as shipping costs.
Criticism over environmental concerns has prompted many bottled water companies to take similar steps, especially as consumers are reducing bottled-water consumption in favor of tap water to save money. U.S. bottled water sales slipped 0.4% in 2008 following years of double-digit growth, according to Beverage Digest, an industry publication, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Beverage market researcher Canadean Ltd. predicts U.S. bottled-water growth of less than 1% a year for the next five years because of the current economic turmoil and environmental concerns.
Pespi isn’t the only company making changes. In 2007, Nestlé SA’s U.S. water unit reduced the weight of its half-liter bottle for regional brands, such as Poland Springs, to about 12.4 grams. The company is testing a 9.8-gram half-liter bottle for distribution in early 2011. Coca Cola Co. has reduced the weight of its Dasani bottle by more than 30% since the brand was introduced; a new bottle making its way into stores now is about 12.8 grams, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Gigi Kellett, national director of a “Think Outside the Bottle Campaign” for Corporate Accountability International, an organization that urges consumers to drink tap water, told the Wall Street Journal a lighter bottle is welcome. But she said she’s concerned about “putting a green veneer on a plastic bottle.”
The price of a half-liter of Aquafina will stay about the same, said Rick Gomez, vice president of hydration at Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages. While the bottle uses less plastic, keeping the price constant will help protect profit margins and offset costs of manufacturing the new bottle, Gomez said.
Taking plastic out of bottles is a challenge for bottled water makers. Rob Le Bras-Brown, PepsiCo’s vice president of packaging innovation and development, told the Wall Street Journal the company created the bottle with a thin “hydroskin” strong enough to hold up inside a gym bag and firm enough that water would not spill out when the bottle was squeezed.