Humanity faces a challenge the likes of which it has never seen before. As world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 summit, we are reminded of the mammoth task that lies ahead if we are to combat global warming.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the fragility of the human state, but it has also shown how small actions taken by individuals can have a huge impact on others. It has demonstrated that when wholesale change is needed, it is possible.
Rising popular concerns about the environment are changing consumer behaviour. Individuals are more eco conscious and they want to reduce their carbon footprint, though most do not expect to have to sacrifice quality. As brands adapt, consumers need to be ready to accept packaging which may not be ‘perfect’, similar to the way in which ‘wonky veg’ has become a supermarket staple and has shifted the mindset of the shopper. Brands have a responsibility to pre-empt, or at the very least respond to, these shifts in demand. By stepping up to the plate, developing and producing products that require less energy to create, less or no plastic to package and that can be both reused and recycled, we will really make lasting change.
At Britvic, we know how important it is to lead the debate and make the change, and we understand the power our brands have in helping consumers make more informed choices. Rather than wait for change to be thrust upon us, we make sure that we engage with customers, trade bodies and government to keep our finger on the pulse and ensure we are ready to respond.
This is borne out in the actions we take. We came out early with our commitment to science-based targets introduced in 2019 and we were the first UK soft drinks company to have an approved 1.5°C target. We are committed to halving our carbon emissions by 2025 and we have a further ambitious target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. None of these things are simple and we don’t have all the answers yet, but we are committed to finding the solutions.
In terms of plastics, we are taking proactive steps to reduce the environmental impact of packaging and futureproofing ‘beyond plastic’. We are determined to create a world where packaging never becomes waste, removing packaging wherever possible, moving to recyclable material wherever else. In 2020, alongside PepsiCo, we set an ambition to move all bottles made in Great Britain to 100% recycled plastic (rPET) by the end of 2022, surpassing our previous target of 50% rPET by 2025. Last year, we removed 539 tonnes of plastic packaging in Great Britain through packaging redesign. This October, we announced that our core singles Fruit Shoot bottles would be moving to100% recycled, clear, plastic. A brave move, changing such iconic packaging, but another step towards our rPET goal. By switching Robinsons Ready to Drink, Lipton Ice Tea and drench on-the-go bottles to rPET, Britvic will also save 1,354 tonnes of virgin plastic every year. This is in addition to the 1,900 tonnes already saved by Ballygowan and Fruit Shoot Hydro switching to rPET bottles, as we announced in August.
For the bottles that are already in circulation, we want to make sure that people know how to recycle them. We know how important it is that brands have clear labelling in order to improve recycling quantity, quality and encourage wider behaviour change around waste, as well as supporting the transition to a circular economy through the repeated use of recycled materials.
As we look to the future, an important emerging trend in our industry is ‘Beyond the Bottle’ products. These are dispense solutions for consumers when they are on the go, in the workplace, travelling or socialising outside of the home and require little packaging per serve. It’s an exciting opportunity for us and through the acquisition of Aqua Libra Co, state-of-the-art smart touch taps offering hot, cold, sparkling and flavoured water, we are also engaged in developing other, new technologies that offer sustainable hydration while helping reduce the use of plastic. We also offer our premium London Essence Tonic on Tap in five botanical flavours, cutting packaging by 96%.
There’s a long, long way to go, we know that, but our brands have an important role to play, and we must continue to innovate as a brand-builder and collaborate as an industry in order to ensure our customers can have the best of both worlds; a more sustainable product without compromising on the quality that they know and love.
Matt Barwell | Chief Marketing Officer