How to stay competitive: Sustainable Packaging

As time goes on, more weight is being put on being considered a sustainable company. There are many different facets associated with being able to call your brand “sustainable”, but for this particular post we will be focusing on sustainable packaging. Almost all of the top brewing companies have proudly declared they have made extensive efforts toward sustainable packaging of their products. Three companies that have made great efforts in this category are: Sierra Nevada, New Belgium Brewing, and Boulevard Brewing. Each company has taken a different approach and all have become seen as successfully sustainable.

Sierra Nevada is a company that has placed a ton of emphasis on their efforts in this area. They have been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally for their commitment to decreasing their environmental impact. Sierra Nevada focuses on ways to reduce weight, save material and preserve beer quality. They have done so by using packaging containing the highest amount of recycled material and are able to maintain their high standards for quality at the same time. They also state that they try work with local vendors whenever possible. In 2012, they launched their Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA in cans, followed by the Pilsner in 2015. Their Draught beer, however, is sold in stainless steel kegs, which is the most sustainable packaging because of its reusability. On their website, they offer a helping hand by encouraging readers to: “Avoid single-use plastic cups to really reduce your impact!” This website is a great model for a basic sustainability campaign, however, New Belgium brewery really takes the cake on their effort to inform consumers of their own efforts and the data behind it.

New Belgium Brewing Company is an amazing source to see what a competitive brewing company does to make sure it is sustainable and also to get educated on why it is important. Their mission statement impressively states: “We envision a future with cradle-to-cradle packaging design and higher recycling & recovery rates across the U.S., and we believe that an approach which combines both action and advocacy across the beverage industry & supply chain will help to move the needle on these issues. We have established goals for packaging sustainability, focusing upon four key areas: Source Reduction, Sustainable Material Selection & Design, Optimizing Efficiency, and Recovery & Recycling Advocacy.” These areas are vital to consider when it comes to packaging your product. What is different about this website, however, is that they have a graphic (as seen below) to help explain the sustainability options between cans, kegs, or bottles. This is extremely helpful when attempting to target the most sustainable option for your company. They also answer some frequently asked questions about confusion surrounding which is more sustainable. Overall, the verdict is= it depends. When answering the question “Which container- bottle or can- comes closest to being sustainable?” the response states that neither has one distinct advantage over the other. They argue that in the beginning of an aluminum cans lifecycle, it has a larger impact than the glass bottle, however, later in the cycle, glass has the larger impact due to heavier transportation and recycling difficulties. In the end, New Belgium argues that it could be even impact. Although this company takes a comical approach to describing which option is the most sustainable in certain circumstances, it is clear that it all comes down to a happy balance between quality and quantity. While it is always great to aim big like New Belgium brewing does, it is also helpful to take a look at some lesser-known companies to see what they are doing to stay competitive on the sustainability front.

Brew map

Boulevard Brewing Company is a Midwest company located in Kansas City that produces fine ales and lagers. They have decided to make their mark on sustainability by focusing on something called Ripple glass. In 2009 Kansas disposed of 150 million pounds of glass- 10 million of which came from empty Boulevard beer bottles. The problem was that there were no local facilities to recycle glass, so it just sat in landfills. The company decided to stop contributing to the problem. They came up with the solution of “Ripple glass” which ultimately recycles 100 million Boulevard beer bottles. After becoming a zero-landfill company the brewery states “All broken bottles and other glass waste goes to Ripple Glass, which in turn sends a portion of its final product back to our bottle manufacturer, giving Boulevard bottles a second life as, well, more Boulevard bottles.” This tactic of recycling bottles and re-using them has made an impressive dent in the sustainability problem in Kansas City. The company has also made efforts to have sustainable boxes, using 70% post-consumer recycled paper- all 100% recyclable. The company provides an estimate stating that they have saved approximately: “18,207 trees, 4,819,500 gallons of water, 3,320,100 KWH of electricity, and 2,249 cubic yard of landfill space.” These impressive stats have helped keep the company current and competitive in the brewing industry in regards to package sustainability.

The take-home message of sustainable packaging in the brewing industry these days is simple: You gatta have it. In order for your company to stay in good standing with consumers, it needs to be apparent that you are willing to join the fight in protecting our environment. So in considering these three companies and their impact on the sustainable packaging campaign, you can reflect on what method is best for your company to be effective as well.

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