The performance of PET with the appearance of glass: this is what Sidel has managed to achieve in the design of the world’s first-ever pasteurisable lightweight PET bottle for beer.

Time for beer to get into PET

Around five billion PET packaging units of beer are currently sold each year. Yet this figure represents just 2% of the global market, with glass and can still the most widely used packaging materials. The launch of Sidel's new PET bottle for beer now makes it possible for beer producers to follow the trend seen throughout the food and beverage industry and make the switch to PET. The material has quickly become a popular packaging choice for a variety of products from juices to olive oil and sauces because of its safety, strength, flexibility, lighter weight, recyclability, design flexibility and greater convenience.


The new PET beer bottle maintains a traditional beer bottle feel by using a 'champagne' base that is usually found on glass beer bottles. It also supports a crown closure similar to those on premium beer products. The result is a bottle that looks like a traditional glass bottle but is, in fact, PET.


"We want to help beer producers take advantage of the many benefits of PET, by producing a bottle that is more attractive to the next generation of beer consumers who want their drinks packaging to be more sustainable, convenient and user-friendly," explains Christophe Bunel, Head of Packaging Care at Sidel.


The bottle is suitable for use with flash or tunnel pasteurised beer, and also micro-filtrated beer. For tunnel-pasteurised beer, a PET bottle usually requires a petaloid base, but the unique base of Sidel's new bottle combined with other design technologies mean it can resist the pressures created by the prolonged high temperatures during this production process, while still retaining the appearance of a more traditional glass bottle.


Christophe Bunel continues, "For many consumers a petaloid base is associated with other product categories, such as carbonated soft drinks or sparkling water, and therefore when it appears on a beer bottle it can negatively affect the brand perception. But increasingly consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of PET, because they experience it as the preferred packaging material of choice in other food and beverage areas in their life. So to help producers and consumers make the transition we wanted a bottle that looked like glass, but has all the benefits of PET."


A six-month shelf life


Packaging beer requires an in-depth understanding how the liquid behaves in the bottle. For example, it is critical to prevent oxygen entering and carbon dioxide escaping the packaging. The new bottle design manages this with different solutions, such as single-layer material blends and Sidel's proprietary Actis™ gas-barrier technology. As a result, the beer bottle protects the beer for up to a six-month shelf life. To prove the benefits of its technology, Sidel has blown a 330 millilitre version that can achieve a six-month shelf life, with less than 1 parts-per-million (ppm) oxygen ingress and less than 17% carbon dioxide loss.


The PET beer bottle can also withstand pressures of 20 pasteurisation units (PU) in a tunnel pasteuriser, a standard for lagers, without any effect on the base stability. Furthermore, no new equipment is needed for pasteurisation as the bottle design can be used on existing tunnel pasteurisers for glass bottles.


Changing traditions

For many years there have been misperceptions surrounding beer in PET. For example, some people mistakenly think beer in PET bottles gets warmer quicker. In fact, Sidel's studies have shown that the new PET beer bottle kept beer cold for the same length of time as an equivalent sized glass bottle, with much less wall thickness and hence much less material weight. Other misperceptions centre on taste with consumers falsely believing that beer tastes better in cans rather than PET bottles.

 Sidel is working to change these misperceptions and has conducted extensive tests on the new bottle. These have included finite element analysis and feasibility testing to evaluate bottle stability, liquid quality protection and rigidity, as well as full industrial production tests to prove the bottle's performance, both during production and across simulated supply chains.


The new bottle has generated a strong interest in the beer industry and many well-known beer manufacturers are currently talking to Sidel about how the new PET bottle design can benefit their brand. The bottle itself can be produced using all suitable Sidel PET packaging solutions for beer, including its beer fillers and the new range of Sidel Matrix™ blowers and labellers.


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