When it comes to reducing plastic packaging in food retail, the beverage sector holds the highest potential. An innovation recently presented by Black Forest-based German packaging specialist Karl Knauer and Krones, a system supplier to the beverage industry from Neutraubling, could revolutionize secondary packaging in the beverage segment. The internationally patented ‘LitePac Top’ cardboard carrier makes the conventional shrink wrap used for packs superfluous and therefore avoids unnecessary packaging, pack after pack. According to the press release, this makes huge savings potential for Western Europe alone, which uses 60,000 to 80,000 tonnes of shrink wrap per year.
Cardboard instead of foil
Between 1.5 and 2 billion returnable PET beverage bottles are still being sold each year in Germany alone despite the agreed-upon targets for banning single-use plastic products. The press release says, 2 liter, 1.5 liter, and 0.5 liter PET bottles are and will continue to be, the most popular form of packaging in the beverage segment. As retailers find these disposable plastic bottles easier to manage than glass, which is returnable bottles, the number used is set to remain high in the coming years. This makes it all the more important to avoid every single gram of extra plastic, secondary packaging, around these bottles. Until now, standard 4 or 6 packs have been held together by shrink-wrap packaging made from shrink film. However, this film is made using non-renewable raw materials and is consequently viewed more and more critically by consumers.
Karl Knauer and Krones have joined forces to offer retailers and bottlers an alternative to such conventional film solutions. These companies have worked together to create the ‘LitePac Top’, a sustainable packaging solution made from cardboard. Instead of shrink wrap, a sturdy cardboard carrier securely holds six-packs of 0.5 to 2 liter PET bottles or beverage cans together. According to the press release, the LitePac Top, adapted to the bottle’s or can’s design, is attached at the top and firmly holds the half dozen beverage containers together. In addition, a 100 % paper strap is wrapped around 1.5 and 2-liter packs to ensure stability.
Handling and perception advantages
In addition, due to the LitePac Top’s integrated handle, the nine-kilogram pack of six 1.5 liter PET bottles is comfortable to carry, even over longer distances, without cutting painfully into the hand. The can version offers finger holes to ensure a secure grip for transport. “When developing the product, it was important to us to ensure that the packaging remains stable, even when individual bottles or cans are removed. We achieved this by making the bottles and cans removable from the packaging with a simple twist,” explains Michael Weber, key account manager at Karl Knauer. “Even if the packaging only contains a couple of bottles, it can still be transported safely.”
Therefore, in terms of transport stability, according to the companies, the LitePac Top is superior to shrink packs. The other additional advantages to the cardboard version include reducing the volume of waste within retail, and cardboard packaging is more sustainable. “In this way, even people who reach for drinks in disposable packaging can contribute in a small way towards reducing plastic. And this positivity pays off for the manufacturer as it can contribute to building customer loyalty,” says Michael Weber.
Efficient and sustainable
Switching to secondary packaging made from cardboard also pays off financially for the suppliers. In addition to creating a positive brand message and providing a comfortable carrying experience, the LitePac Top also claims to offer significantly better environmental performance in terms of the bottling and packing.
“We produced multiple LitePac Tops in a highly cost-efficient way, tested the product at all stages of the supply chain and had it put through its paces by one of the leading beverage bottlers. Even we were impressed by the results as they exceeded all our expectations,” summarizes Martin Glatz, head of Sales, Marketing, Research and Development at Karl Knauer.
“Compared to shrink wrap packaging, power consumption is reduced approximately to 92%. Applied to a single packaging unit, energy consumption can be reduced. And the reduction in CO2 emissions by using the LitePac Top solution instead of shrink packs, is a further plus for our new cardboard carrier. If both the material and the packaging process are taken into account, we can save 30.4% of CO2. With the LitePac Top’s value of 0.867, we come impressively close to the target value of 1, which would signify a fully circular economy. This is a significant improvement on the shrink pack value of only 0.301.”
According to the press release, the mono-material of the LitePac Top consists of 100% renewable raw materials from FSC or PEFC certified forests and fibers from agricultural waste. This means that the packaging can be easily disposed of using the usual paper recycling option and can be recycled up to seven times.
Following the ban on plastic bags and single-use plastic, it is only a matter of time before secondary plastic packaging is no longer permitted in the EU. Therefore, manufacturers like Krones and Karl Knauer, who have already patented innovative and sustainable products such as the LitePac Top, are highly likely to see an increase in demand in the near future.