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Refillable and reusable milk bottles shift the way we see beverage packaging

Beverage Packaging

During the recent 2022 Australasian Packaging & Innovation Design (PIDA) Awards, the Beverage Packaging Design of the Year category had two winning designs that stood out above the rest.

By: Nerida Kelton, executive director – AIP and vice president, Sustainability & Save Food – WPO

These innovative and intuitive packs were Synlait Swappa Bottle and Coles Urban Coffee Culture organic home compostable coffee capsule, which received gold and silver respectively.

Whilst the packaging could not be more different, there was one guiding packaging design principle that was heavily embedded in both; sustainability.

Coming from a Refillable and Reusable perspective Synlait Swappa Bottle has been designed to change the way that milk packaging is used and ultimately reused, repeatedly. They also wanted to design a unique pack that their customers could embrace for its sustainability credentials.

Beverage Packaging
Swappa Bottle’s interactive website allows consumers to follow the product’s sustainability journey.

Synlait Milk Limited believes that there is an opportunity for reusable products to play a much bigger role in New Zealanders milk-drinking future.

From the outset they imagined a bottle designed with clean lines and retro style with broad shoulders, a large easy pour mouth featuring an embossed Synlait brand logo and ergonomic finger holds allowing optimal hand placement.

The Synlait Swappa Bottle has been designed to be sealed with a recyclable closure and the material of choice is food grade stainless steel, selected for its durability, cleanability and by its very nature provides light protection ensuring the milk remains fresh, offering an extended shelf-life. Physical dimensions purposely designed to fit refrigerator doors with the finger holds positioned for ease of reach. The footprint suits industry standardised milk crates, supply chain and manufacturing assets.

To encourage consumer engagement Swappa Bottle developed an interactive website that allows consumers to join the sustainability journey of the product they have purchased. This includes a dynamic map element where visitors can find participating supermarkets near them.

In addition, each bottle has a unique bottle identifier using a laser etched QR code protected within a recessed base. Integrated QR code functionality allows consumers to scan the code on the base of each bottle to be directed to the ‘swappabottle’ website. It tracks the bottle’s journey and displays live information on the specific bottle – where it was filled, the Best Before Date and shows how many times the bottle has been reused. Most importantly consumers can also find out how many single-use plastic bottles each Swappa Bottle it has offset.

The Swappa Bottle is branded with a recyclable cardboard sleeve providing shelf presence in chilled supermarket aisles. The sleeve contains important information about the product including the nutritional panel, barcode and QR code information. Inks used are all vegetable based.

Beverage Packaging

Coles on the other hand were looking to eliminate difficult to recycle materials from their coffee capsules and make end of life easier for consumers at home.

Coles Home Compostable Coffee Capsules were developed just as the pandemic sparked a major shift in coffee-drinking habits, with more people opting for convenience while working from home.

Beverage Packaging
The Coles Urban Coffee Culture organic home compostable coffee capsules.

Coles has seen an increase in coffee capsule sales over the last two years and wanted to help their customers find a more sustainable way to dispose of coffee capsules at home.

The new compostable coffee capsules can be home composted in ambient temperatures and are compliant with Australian Standard AS5810, French NF T51 800 (2015), as well as ISO 16929. The capsules are designed to have a biobased carbon content of 100 per cent, in compliance with the ASTM D6866 standard (Standard Test Methods for Determining the Biobased Content of Solid, Liquid, and Gaseous Samples Using Radiocarbon Analysis).

A bio-based, compostable, oxygen barrier and non-tearable filter top lid is present on the capsules to ensure perfect extraction and best result in the cup. These capsules are designed to be compatible with machines designed for Nespresso™ style coffee capsules.

The Coles Urban Coffee Culture Organic Home Compostable Capsule cardboard box is made of recyclable paperboard and houses ten of the compostable coffee capsules and is designed to be resealed easily. There is clear instruction on pack ‘OPEN HERE’ and perforations are provided for the reseal tab. This design feature also provides tamper evidence in the packaging.

The pack has been designed to ensure that customers can easily identify that the product contains home compostable capsules, as it is highlighted prominently in a black band on the front of pack. The ease of home composting these capsules is showcased on the back of pack, which explains that the capsules break down at the same time as an orange peel in their home compost bin.

On front of pack, customers can also easily identify that the coffee within this product is ACO Certified Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified due to the clearly positioned logos on the front of pack. The Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA) Home Compostable logo is also present on the front of pack. A black ‘Nespresso machine compatibility’ strip contrasts clearly against the green band.

What is evident from the Synlait Swappa Bottle and the Coles Urban Coffee Culture Organic Home Compostable Coffee Capsules is that re-thinking packaging to offer lower environmental impacts, eliminate problematic materials and single use packaging is front of mind for packaging designers and technologists. Designing out the waste at the start and considering the recoverability and recyclability of the materials is now paramount to all new packs being placed on the market.

Added to that is the improved manner that both packs are effectively communicating to consumers on and off-pack. On-pack through the Australasian Recycling logo, ABA compostable certifications and logos, intuitive explanations on how to use and open and then off-pack through interactive and dynamic QR codes and websites.

Both designs are innovative and intuitive and take the customer on the sustainable journey with the brand.

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