World of water shift: Packaging for a greener planet

SIG was the first to announce the launch of tethered caps for its aseptic beverage cartons in Europe already in 2021, well ahead of the 2024 deadline set by EU regulations (Image: SIG)

Water – it is the most important substance on our planet as, in one way or another, every living thing depends on it. Put simply, if there was no water there would be no life on earth. While its essentiality has always been clear, water has become much more than a natural resource. Risanni Retnaning Dwi, global category manager at SIG, discusses why it is so important for food and beverage manufacturers to choose a particularly sustainable packaging, especially for trendy water drinks.

As far back as the 18th century, water has been associated with desirable values like health, purity and rejuvenation. In Europe in particular, the unique mineral compositions of springs at spas and baths were celebrated for their apparent abilities to cure ailments and improve wellbeing. As more people visited these resorts to imbibe their healthful elixirs, the world of water products began to take shape.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the appeal of water as a product is stronger than ever. Consumers around the world are still looking to water, or near-water drinks, for many of the same values realised more than 200 years ago. These days, with a greater demand for more natural and ethically produced goods. This draws on several major food and beverage trends that have made water products a huge market potential, including individualisation, premiumisation, sustainability and healthy lifestyles.

More premium and ethically-sourced water

According to figures from Euromonitor, the global bottled water market was valued at US$212 billion in 2020 with a volume of 336 billion litres. Alongside the growing value and consumption of water products is the increasing demand for more premium packaged water. According to food and drink consultancy Zenith Global premium packaged water turned from a once niche product into a mainstream commodity.

Risanni Retnaning Dwi said: “When it comes to why we’re drinking more packaged water, several factors are at play between some markets – such as poor quality of tap water, the risk of waterborne illnesses and greater availability of packaged water. However, in most markets, other factors include increasing health awareness, rising disposable incomes and more on-the-go lifestyles.”

However, there is also a new breed of water products, the near-water trend – that is, any water infused with flavours or functional benefits. In recent years, the demand for near-water beverages has grown exponentially, such that the category’s CAGR (annual growth rate) is set to rise 9% from 2020-2025.

So, what is fuelling the functional water frenzy? What kind of products have we seen emerge on the market?

“Around the world, it’s clear that modern consumers are much more aware and concerned about the health impact of high-sugar sodas and beverages with certain artificial sweeteners leading many people moving towards healthy beverages containing natural minerals and vitamins. More than ever, consumers are demanding healthy, low-calorie beverages that are both good for them and good for the environment,” Retnaning Dwi shared.

This has resulted in widespread innovation across the entire near-water market segment. From fermented to protein packed beverages, there is now a plethora of products offering added vitamins, minerals, collagen and natural probiotics – and promising everything from beauty to weight-loss benefits.

  • As sugar remains a primary concern, alternatives such as vegan, fibre infused water promise to bring a healthy dose of immunity and functionality to everyday life.
  • Beverages created with natural flavours continue to rise in both range and popularity, particularly those flavoured with mixed berry, lemon lime and orange mango.
  • New and exotic flavours are also gaining momentum, with spices such as cardamom, ginger and turmeric hitting the market in recent years. Many of these drinks boast antioxidant-boosting or stress-relieving qualities, making them a hit with the health-conscious consumer.

“To stand out in this growing market, many brands have turned to premium water – focusing on the provenance, source or purity of the water together with more premium packaging solutions. Research shows that 61% of millennials are likely to pay more for eco-friendly or sustainable products1,” said Retnaning Dwi

Start-up brand NOBL Thirst is an example: the company set out to respond to the growing demand for natural and ethically produced products. To achieve this, the company turned to SIG to package its pure and premium mineral water product NOBL WATR in SIG’s unique combidome carton bottle.

SIG’s on-the-go combismile carton pack entered the French market with the new fruity flavoured ranges for adults and kids from renowned natural mineral water brand Volvic.

Packaging for a greener planet

For many of today’s consumers, the push for sustainability also applies to packaging. That is why SIG offers a range of packaging solutions aimed at reducing single-use plastic and minimising environmental impact, while still maintaining flavour and functionality.

Belgian start-up company The Happy Healthy Kids Company for example launched a healthy water drink under its WaWaah Water brand in SIG’s combifitPremium 1,000ml carton pack with pioneering SIGNATURE FULL BARRIER packaging material.

Sustainability in a pack

SIG’s SIGNATURE FULL BARRIER packaging material features polymers that are 100% linked to plant-based renewable materials via a mass balance system. Like all SIG packaging structures, the main material is sustainably-sourced FSC-certified paperboard and also uses an ultrathin layer of responsibly-sourced aluminium certified to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) standard.

For WaWaah Water, the choice of packaging had to be in full alignment with its brand ethos which is all about what is best for children. The healthy and delicious water drinks, in apple and strawberry flavours, needed a sustainable packaging solution which did everything it could to protect children’s future planet. SIG carton packs with SIGNATURE FULL BARRIER packaging material was the best fit for WaWaah Water’s sustainable ambition.

Even with SIG’s standard packaging material structure, across its lifecycle its carbon footprint is significantly smaller than that of alternative packaging solutions such as glass, HDPE or PET bottles, pouches and cans. The lifecycle carbon footprint of a carton pack is 28% to 70% lower than the alternatives. And cartons also use considerably fewer fossil fuel resources – with consumption rates between 38% and 77% lower2.

United for good

Moreover, SIG was the first to announce the launch of tethered caps for its aseptic beverage cartons in Europe already in 2021, well ahead of the 2024 deadline set by EU regulations. Customers choosing packaging solutions from SIG’s SIGNATURE portfolio will also get the additional environmental benefit of tethered caps made from polymers linked to 100% renewable, forest-based materials.