Industry expert Wolfgang Hinkel, former Managing Director of Ball Packaging Europe Metall, on a development that no one would have thought possible 15 years ago.
Mr Hinkel, the beverage can is back, its popularity is continuing to rise.
To make sense of this, we have to look back to the introduction of the mandatory deposit in 2003: In the previous year, consumption had amounted to 6.1 billion cans. In the first deposit year, there was no redemption system and only 249 million cans were consumed in 2004. Normally, you’d be bankrupt with numbers like these!
We were against the mandatory deposit, because there was no redemption system. This was not installed until 1 May 2006, and it worked. Today you won’t find any deposit-bearing beverage cans in the landscape, the litter has disappeared. 99 out of 100 beverage cans are collected.
What has changed?
There is a different awareness among consumers; today’s young people have only ever known the deposit system. And so billions of cans are being used again, because the can has many advantages: it is light, easy to cool and simply very convenient.
What role does Red Bull play? It only ever came in a can.
Red Bull had played a big part in the survival and comeback of the beverage can! 2003 was a chaotic year, Red Bull and the can manufacturers installed their own small redemption system. You have to remember that on 1 October 2003, drinks in cans had been discontinued by the trade. There were two exceptions: Rewe worked with deposit tokens, Lekkerland with deposit-bearing cans marked with a “P”. Without Red Bull and the “P” system, the beverage can in Germany would have disappeared from the market at that time! And in the market for energy drinks, the beverage can has displaced PET bottles, which were still widely used.
Certain beverages come in cans more often than others. What are the reasons for this?
Carbonated beverages are somewhat easier to fill, which is why you will predominantly find these in cans. The carbonic acid ensures that the can does not have to be completely filled but is still dimensionally stable. In the Netherlands there are also milk and cocoa drinks in cans. You can actually fill any beverage in cans.
In the 60s and 70s there was orange juice in cans.
This is being developed. Currently, mixed drinks such as whisky-cola are very popular. The can is the preferred packaging for energy drinks. It’s a perfect match.
And what about beer?
Compared to PET, the can is better. Better to cool, different feel and also none of the taste is lost. The smaller filling quantities mean you consume fewer calories and sugar. One example is the 15-millilitre can, which meets all these requirements. But there are still critics.
Are there any drinks that have only recently been offered in cans?
There are Secco, wine spritzers and wine. Cider’s an example that shows such drinks have a chance in the can. The beverage can has made it trendy. Sales have risen steadily in recent years.
What are the most significant changes in recent years?
The evolution from a three-piece beverage can weighing almost 50 grams to a two-piece beverage can weighing only 15 grams! A half-litre can weighs only 14.8 grams. This means that packaging is only 3 per cent of the weight, leaving 97 per cent for the beverage. You can’t have less packaging. The can is the lightest packaging for carbonated beverages. Energy consumption and weight for coatings and inks have also been reduced. Solvent-based coatings and inks have been replaced by water-based ones. All these measures have continuously improved the ecological footprint over a period of more than 40 years.
80 per cent of beverage cans are made of aluminium. They have been criticised because aluminium production is so energy-intensive.
Ecology and economy belong together. One example is energy consumption: they’re working on this in aluminium and steel production as well as in beverage can production. In Germany, three manufacturers operate six production sites, which guarantees short distances to the filling plants distributed throughout the country. With filled cans, a truck can transport 80 per cent more beverages than in other packaging. TBeverage cans also show the benefits of the good deposit system: there are 42,000 redemption machines nationwide. Thanks to the DPG deposit system, 99.1 per cent of all beverage cans are returned to the recycling system as secondary raw materials. A single truck can transport 1,400,000 used cans pressed into bales to the recycling centres. Virtually none of the aluminium and steel is lost; they can be used again and again. Compared to production using new materials, up to 95 per cent of CO2 equivalent and 95 per cent of energy are saved.