Drink and beverage packaging treads a fine line between adhering to the needs of the business and the needs of the consumer. Whilst eco-friendly packaging and safe packaging are important, the product branding needs to look good and be aesthetically pleasing for the person buying it.

This is a fundamental issue in the world of ecommerce and it is vital for businesses to meet the right balance when it comes to beverage packaging. This detailed guide will cover the ins-and-outs of beverage packaging, including the different types, meeting the right balance, and how technology helps to simplify the process.

What is beverage packaging?

Beverage packaging provides protection and resistance for drinks. Its main function is to hold and protect the product inside.

However, drinks packaging needs to adhere to more than just this. Providing protection means that the product is tamper proof and protective against various kinds of physical, chemical, and biological damage. Moreover, the packaging itself cannot affect the product in any way.

Value must be placed on the aesthetics of the packaging too. As drink and beverage consumers will buy the product, it needs to be ready for the public eye.

Why is beverage packaging important?

Drinks and beverage packaging is so vital as it dictates whether or not it actually sells.

The most important role of drinks packaging is ensuring that it protects the product inside. This means that the protective layer should ensure no damage from transportation, storage, or handling of the product. 

Failing to adhere to proper protection may disqualify the product from public consumption. UK regulations maintain that the packaging needs to safely contain the liquid whilst not affecting its taste or quality.

Packaging also needs to promote the product to the consumer. If people like looking at the drink’s packaging, it means they are more likely to buy it and engage with the brand.

Lastly, but still just as important as the rest, drinks packaging needs to convey the correct information for whoever handles it. Whether it be ingredients, best-by dates, or place of manufacture, this information needs to be on display regardless and should always be under consideration.

What materials are used in beverage packaging?

Drinks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Consequently, the best type of packaging material depends exactly on the product it will be holding.

Here are several types of materials for beverage packaging alongside their strengths and uses:

Plastic packaging

Plastic is one of the most popular beverage packaging methods due to its cost-effectiveness. Whilst not great for the environment, it is cheap and weighs less than other alternatives.

However, plastic does have its downsides. Extreme heat can affect the packaging and, in turn, the product. Moreover, is it not a real option for eco-friendly brands, which is a massive point of contention in today’s day and age. Plastic can also contain BPA which can be harmful when consumed in large quantities.

Soft and fizzy drinks are the most common products that use plastic packaging.

Glass packaging

Glass is the oldest form of beverage packaging due to its durability and classic feel. It is completely eco-friendly due to glass being entirely recyclable. Furthermore, glass is impermeable and tolerant against most temperatures. 

The main disadvantage of glass is how easy it is to break or shatter. Glass smashing is common, so packaging needs to be fitted with extra care like shrinkwrap to mitigate this. Glass also breaks under extreme cold.

Glass packaging sees uses for a wide variety of beverages - most notably, alcoholic drinks. 

Canned packaging

Cans are everywhere in the drinks industry due to their durability and stylishness. Cans are extremely hard to damage. A fall from a shelf that would shatter a glass bottle will hardly dent a can for example.

Importantly, cans are the most recycled container in the world, meaning any eco-conscious company will find no issues with using canned packaging.

Lastly, cans are airtight, which preserves the carbonation of the drink, ensuring high quality and taste.

Cans work best for carbonated beverages such as fizzy drinks or beer.

Paperboard packaging

Whilst the least used form of beverage packaging, paperboard is a potential option for businesses to explore. Paperboard excels at blocking out light, thus keeping the product free from adverse effects. 

It is lightweight and cheap to transport. On top of this, it is sustainable due to the material being entirely recyclable. The one downside of this choice however is that the product will occasionally leak due to paperboard needing resins to hold the structure together.

Paperboard is a good choice for long-life milk or juices that do not require refrigeration until opening.

What beverage packaging machinery do businesses use?

There are several different types of beverage packaging machines that the industry uses. This depends entirely on the type of product and which packaging to go alongside it.

The main types of packaging include beverage sealing and capping, labelling and sleeving, and end-of-line equipment.

Beverage capping and sealing

Regardless of the material you choose for your beverage packaging, it will need sufficient sealing to ensure it protects the product and minimises leaks or spillages.

For example, capping machines work precisely with a range of glass and plastic packaging options. More advanced technology, like bottle blowing and filling machines, incorporate capping into a larger system.

Alternatively, sealing machinery excels with cans and paperboard options. This ensures that the product is airtight and not exposed to any outside elements.

Labelling and sleeving

There are many different types of labelling machines, including shrink sleeve, roll-fed, roll-through, and pressure sensitive. This technology applies sleeves and labels to cans, bottles, glass bottles, and other beverage containers.

This machinery is adaptable and customisable to the needs of the business. If a product is a difficult shape or size, or the business wishes to reduce the amount of product waste, then the machinery can be altered to do so.

End-of-line equipment

End-of-line machinery fulfils the final actions to ready products for shipment. Such machinery includes cartoning, case and tray packing, and case erecting and sealing.

All products need some form of final preparation, so this equipment is vital in finishing the process smoothly and efficiently.

What are the current trends in beverage packaging?

In today’s day and age, there are three major concerns for beverage packaging and the industry in general. These are:

  1. Eco-friendly beverage packaging

Engaging with sustainability and eco-friendliness is a core component of the packaging industry as a whole. Businesses can show off their commitment to improving the world and adhering to the beliefs of the consumer.

This means that fully-recyclable packaging is the way forward. Businesses are looking less at using plastic bottles and switching over to more sustainable options like aluminium cans and bottles.

On top of this, the size of packaging is a big factor too. Smaller products that are easier to take on the go are more favourable in today’s day and age due to their easily disposable nature.

  1. Unique and eye catching packaging

The customer is at the heart of any product-based business, meaning what they are selling needs to attract their target market. Businesses only have one chance to make a good impression and convince the consumer that they should buy their product.

Using bright colours, engaging language, and memorable branding are just ways of incorporating an identity within drinks packaging. Luckily, technology nowadays can easily implement a design into the machinery, meaning a more complicated look will not overly complicate the packaging process.

  1. Buying online

If a business wants their product to succeed, they need to appeal to the growing ecommerce market. Consequently, a product needs to be easy to transport and ship either nationwide or internationally. 

A business therefore needs to consider the implications of large-scale beverage packaging and the fundamentals of how it will work. The logistics of what happens after the products packaging finalises is an important point to bear in mind.

Beverage packaging: keeping up with an evolving industry

As the views of businesses and consumers evolve, so too does beverage packaging machinery. With eco-friendly initiatives making the move from plastics to more sustainable options, the accompanying technology will have to make changes to accommodate for said options.

These changes are ongoing, meaning it is imperative to keep up with the latest news to stay on the right side of B2B and B2C trends. Following industry experts is a sure way to know exactly what machinery a business needs to distribute a product safely and effectively.

Find out more about drink and beverage packaging at PPMA Show.

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