AB InBev has developed a lighter longneck beer bottle for commercial production that, if used on a year’s worth of glass production for AB InBev brands in Europe, would be the equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions as taking 62,000 cars off the road annually.
The global brewer and owner of brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, Beck’s and Leffe has managed to reduce the weight of its standard longneck beer bottle from 180 to 150 grams, cutting its CO2 emissions by 17% per bottle. With packaging making up, on average, 50% of its product carbon product footprint, such innovations are an important part of AB InBev’s Sustainability Goals, which include a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions across its value chain by 2025.
“Light weighting our bottles has been a priority for many years at AB InBev and this new, lighter bottle is an important environmental and technological breakthrough, allowing us to decrease the carbon footprint of the glass bottle,” explained Frederik De Graaf, global director, Packaging Technology Development at AB InBev. “This success is the fruit of intensive collaboration with our external glass partners, having shared knowledge and worked together on new glass coatings, new glass mold coatings and state of the art converting to strengthen the glass.”
The project was not without its challenges, however: “Quality and safety are non-negotiables and all new packaging innovations undergo extensive testing before they can be released to market.” Frederik added. “When reducing the weight of the bottle, we were faced with strength challenges – beer is, of course, a carbonated drink and inside pressure can build up due to the gas expanding under certain heat conditions. We also needed to be mindful of the speed of our filling lines inducing high impact forces on the bottles. Ultimately, a combination of state-of-the-art equipment, skilled operators and process improvements helped us to achieve this innovation.”
AB InBev is now exploring how to roll out the new bottle, in Europe initially, in one-way bottles. In markets where the brewer is present with returnable bottles – which have a lower environmental footprint due to the bottles being reused several times – the next challenge for the GITEC team of scientists will be to further develop technologies to lightweight these bottles, which need to survive many cycles. AB InBev is committed to have 100% of its products in packaging that is returnable or from majority recycled content by 2025.