Coca-Cola’s Scott Vitters shares his insights on moving towards more sustainable beverage packaging
NEW YORK Drug Store News spoke with Scott Vitters, director of sustainable packaging platform for Coca-Cola about the company’s efforts to address sustainability issues. Here’s what he said about reducing, reusing and recycling:
Drug Store News: What are some of the biggest strides you’ve made in creating package designs that use less material without sacrificing quality?
Scott Vitters: Our packaging innovation teams continually are exploring new ways to reduce the amount of material and energy used in our packaging. All of our key packages have seen significant reductions since their initial introduction. One recent initiative was a 25 percent reduction in the weight of our Dasani water bottles through package redesign initiatives preventing the use of approximately 9,000 metric tons of plastic.
We also launched a new short height, bottle cap that’s 38 percent lighter and prevents the use of more than 19,000 metric tons of plastic and introduced high-yield concentrated syrups for our core fountain beverages that, on average, will deliver more than 50 additional drinks per package delivered.
DrSN: What kinds of changes to beverage packaging should we be looking for in the next five years? Any chance we’ll be going back to refillables?
Vitters: Over the next five years, I think we’ll see continued innovation in recycled content use for PET plastic bottles. We’ll also see growth in plastic made from plant-based materials that don’t compete with the food stream and are 100 percent compatible with the existing recycling systems.
As for refillables, approximately 20 percent of our global volume is in refillable bottles today. I don’t see much growth in these packages here in the United States any time soon, due to lack of consumer demand. The good news is this doesn’t mean consumers will have to give up environmental performance in order to meet other needs. About one-third of our U.S. volume is served in fountain packages that typically have among the lowest environmental footprint. Our remaining volume is largely in PET plastic bottles and aluminum cans that actually can achieve the same—or better—environmental performance as a refillable glass bottle if recycled and used again.
DrSN: Will sustainability issues make a big impact on how consumers view bottled water?
Vitters: Yes, but likely in a favorable way. Coca-Cola absolutely supports municipal tap water as a safe hydration alternative and we pay to use it in local communities across the United States. If consumers need the convenience of a bottled water on the go, simply prefer its taste, or unfortunately find themselves in a time of disaster, we are happy to provide it along with a full portfolio of other beverages largely locally produced. Efforts to increase public awareness around the quality of tap water are worthy. At the same time, we believe efforts to put in place cost-effective community recycling programs would be more productive than banning an important source of hydration, such as bottled water.
DrSN: As part of your strategic vision, Coca-Cola management has said the company is working toward packaging that is no longer seen as waste, but as a valuable resource. Can you talk about some ways recycled materials are being used?
Vitters: Today the demand for PET plastic beverage bottles and aluminum beverage cans outstrips the supply collected in the United States. Coca-Cola has helped to foster this demand by advancing technologies for enabling greater use of recycled content material in packages and purchasing products made from recycled beverage containers. In 2007, Coca-Cola announced a new investment of over $40 million to help build the world’s largest plastic bottle-to-bottle recycling plant in the United States. We also launched a line of licensed merchandise made from recycled bottles in both our stores and major retailers like Wal-Mart.
But designing recyclable packages and using recycled material is only as effective as the collection process that brings used packaging back into the recycling loop. One of the barriers to recycling in the United States and many markets around the world is the weakness of municipal and commercial collection systems for all packaging.
Coca-Cola invests hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support the collection and recovery of beverage packaging materials. Since there’s no universal collection model, we work in partnership with local communities around the world to help develop economically and environmentally effective solutions tailored to meet their specific needs. In the United States, we have gone even further and created our own stand alone recycling business called Coca-Cola Recycling LLC. This company’s goal is to collect 100 percent of the equivalent bottles and cans we use.
DrSN: How does sustainability touch other areas of manufacturing other than packaging?
Vitters: We are committed to serving and supporting sustainable communities because our business succeeds where communities thrive. Together with our bottling partners, our business partners and members of the communities where we operate, Coca-Cola works to identify and address existing and emerging social and environmental issues, as well as potential solutions. We are a global business on a local scale so our efforts and environmental stewardship goals are focused on the areas where we have the most significant and visible impacts—water stewardship, sustainable packaging and energy and climate protection. As part of our global water stewardship commitment, in June 2007 Coca-Cola announced an ambitious goal to lead our global beverage operations, including those of our franchise bottlers, to replace every drop of water used in our beverages and their production. This means continually working to improve water use efficiency in our operations, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment and replenishing water in communities and ecosystems through locally relevant projects.
In the United States, we are continuing to focus on water efficiency by investing water-saving devices at our bottling and production facilities that have resulted in a reduction of 4 percent since 2006. We support watershed conservation projects in two iconic river basins in North America including: Southeast Rivers & Streams and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo of the Chihuahua Desert, as well as local watershed projects in Ginnie Springs, Fla, Milesburg and Lehigh Valley, Pa. and Northampton, Mass.
Our business system has a role to play in ensuring we use the best possible mix of energy sources while improving the energy efficiency of our manufacturing and distribution processes. We have completed the transition to HFC-free insulation for purchases of new sales and marketing refrigeration equipment worldwide. This new equipment will generate 75 percent fewer direct greenhouse gas emissions compared with traditional sales equipment and eliminates the use of HFC, a potent greenhouse gas. Throughout the world we are upgrading our cooling systems to include the EMS 55, an add-on technology that monitors usage patterns and then adjusts energy usage to maximize efficiency. The EMS can be retrofitted to most existing coolers. In North America, Coca-Cola is [making the transition in] our sales and marketing fleet to hybrid diesel vehicles. Our largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, operates one of the world’s largest hybrid vehicle fleets with more than 140 diesel hybrid delivery trucks.
Cadbury cuts middle layer of management; puts CEO in driver’s seat
LONDON Cadbury today reported that it is revamping its management structure removing a layer of management and handing over the reins to chief executive officer Todd Stitzer to steer the company’s operational divisions.
“Our four region operational structure will be eliminated, leaving seven business units (listed in Appendix A) which will report directly to [Stitzer],” Cadbury said in a press statement. “At the same time, we are strengthening our global chocolate, gum and candy category structure, further increasing our focus on category development.”
The change will extract the company’s current regional management structure, removing layers and spreading out organizational tasks over other layers. The company hopes that the change will provide “faster decision making, improve in-market execution and ensure a stronger alignment of category strategies and commercial programs,” it has stated.
The removal of the management layer will affect 250 positions, many of them senior managers. Cadbury said that the changes were following a plan started in 2007 to restructure operations.
Research confirms pomegranate’s health benefits, POM sales on the rise
LOS ANGELES Recent research has affirmed pomegranate’s various health benefits, and the juicy, red fruit’s sales have soared in response. POM Wonderful, the leading seller of pomegranate products, has dished out approximately $25 million on research in order to authenticate its nutritional perks.
In response, the fruit has been added to more than 400 new food products in the past year, including salad dressing, power bars, vodka, cereal and tea. “Ten years ago, only 10 percent of the (U.S.) population had ever tasted a pomegranate,” said Tom Tierandsen, manager of the California Pomegranate Council. “Now, we see no slowing in demand. People are using them in so many different ways.”
Besides being loaded with antioxidants, the pomegranate has been found to improve blood flow, promote prostate health and slow aging. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B5 and potassium.