It is the lightest longneck beer bottle in the world. Anheuser-Busch InBev has developed it for commercial production. The trick: If the innovation were used in glass production for AB InBev's brands in Europe for a year, CO2 emissions could be significantly reduced. As significantly as taking 62,000 cars off the road each year.
The world's leading beer 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 per bottle by 17 percent. With packaging accounting for an average of 50 per cent of a product's carbon footprint, such innovations are an important part of AB InBev's sustainability targets, which call for a 25 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions across the value chain by 2025.
The new lightweight bottle is a milestone in the company's history. The world first was developed at the brewery's Global Innovation and Technology R&D Center, or GITEC, in Leuven, Belgium. There, various innovative technologies were combined to deliver a more sustainable bottle while maintaining a safe packaging that ensures beer quality.
Environmental and technical breakthrough
"Reducing the weight of our bottles has been a priority for AB InBev for many years. This new lighter bottle is a significant environmental and technological breakthrough that allows us to reduce the carbon footprint of the glass bottle," said Frederik De Graaf, Global Director, Packaging Technology Development at AB InBev. "This success is the result of intensive collaboration with our external glass partners, who shared their knowledge and worked together on new glass coatings, new glass mold coatings and state-of-the-art processing to strengthen the glass."
A project with challenges. "Quality and safety are non-negotiable. All new packaging innovations undergo extensive testing before they can be launched," says De Graaf, adding, "In reducing the weight of the bottle, we faced strength challenges. This is because beer is, of course, a carbonated beverage and pressure can build up inside the bottle as the glass expands under certain thermal conditions. We also had to be mindful of the speed of our bottling equipment, which exerts high impact forces on the bottles. Ultimately, a combination of state-of-the-art equipment, trained professionals and process improvements helped us develop this innovation."
AB InBev is now looking at how to initially introduce the new bottle in Europe as a single-use bottle. Reusable bottles, which have a smaller environmental footprint because they can be reused several times, are the next challenge for the GITEC team of scientists. It will be to further develop the technologies for lightweighting these bottles, which must survive many cycles. AB InBev has committed to offering 100 percent of its products in packaging that is reusable or made of a majority of recycled material by 2025.