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Nestlé’s Vittel Water Beta Tests Both a Durable Reusable Bottle and a Paper Bottle

Take Five Video: Vittel® mineral water used the Tour de France to test prototypes for two bottle types: One uses a durable plastic outer shell for reusability, the other uses a paper outer shell for easy recycling. Both use thin film inner liners.

Quick hits:

  • The reusable and refillable packaging trend continues in a Nestlé’s Vittel mineral water pack with a durable outer plastic shell that encloses 50-cL refill cartridges using a thin plastic film
  • The same brand is also testing a paper-based alternative bottle with a unique zipper that allows a consumer to separate the exterior rigid paper pulp bottle from the internal thin film water-holding liner. This separation allows consumers to use appropriate recycle streams for each.
  • We’ve been promising that paper bottles are about to take off for a while now. But between Jabil Packaging Solutions newly acquired Ecologic (used in this NestlĂ© application), the ongoing Carlsberg Green Fiber Bottle, the Coke/Absolute/L’Oriel Pabaco (Paper Bottle Company) project, the Diageo-backed Pulpex consortium, there’s serious movement on this from a lot of stakeholders with deep pockets. 

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Hi, I'm Matt Reynolds, editor of Packaging World Magazine, back with another edition of Take Five.

As I'm recording this, the Tour de France just finished up, last week I believe. Most notable for the huge wipe-out that occurred where a spectator knocked out half the field. But also notable from a packaging perspective at least was the release of two new water bottles from the iconic NestlĂ© brand Vittel. Both of these bottles are attempts to really reduce the amount of packaging and the amount of plastic packaging specifically in their format.

First, there's the Vittel GO system. This consists of a reusable hard protective plastic case on the outside that opens and closes. And then within there's a 50-centiliter, centiliter is about a 10th of a gallon, 50-centiliter refill bottle of natural mineral water that's made with 40% less plastic than a traditional PET bottle of the same standalone style.

So essentially it's a real thin film with a hard protective outer case. And that hard protective outer case is reusable cycle after cycle. We asked about the materials and processes here, but we didn't really get an answer. It's all still in prototype beta testing. But my best guess, that the case itself is injection molded polypropylene, and the refills are injection stretch blow molded PET.

The second Vittel innovation that was debuted at Tour de France was a paper bottle innovation that uses a paper bottle or pulp-based thermoform pulp-based shell that then uses a plastic liner interior to house the mineral water itself. Notably this is from Ecologic Brands, which we've heard a lot of about recently in the paper bottle front. But they've been purchased a few months back by Jabil Packaging Solutions. So it's a Fortune 200 company. So more on that later.

The bottle's two thermal form fiber shells with interlocking tabs are pretty familiar, we've seen that a few times from the Ecologic Brand. And once again, they're made of recycled paperboard and old newspapers.

But while most of the recent Ecologic offerings have used an interlining system that's been extruded blown out of 80% post-consumer HDPE, the liner in this project, in this Vittel bottle uses an injection stretch blow molded liner of a hundred percent recycled PET. And it's also really light at just nine grams.

Another distinguishing factor about the bottle from earlier iterations is that it features a tear tab, that'll make it really easy for consumers to separate the fiber shells from the PET liner and put each in the appropriate recycling stream.

Again, we don't have a ton of details about either one of these bottles since they're both kind of prototype test phase, but the paper bottle in particular really does portend something maybe on the horizon with paper bottles finally.

Okay, I mentioned that this feels a little like a watershed moment for paper bottles, and I know what you're thinking. You've heard that before, we've said that before. I'll cop to having been a bit of a boy who cried wolf with paper bottle. I mean, consider the Carlsberg project. We reported on this back in 2015 and it felt like we were on the cusp of something that's unicorn, liquid stored in pulp or paper. That's been through iterations over the years and it's still an ongoing project, but it just hasn't hit that necessary volume to really land in consumers laps at a wide distribution level.

Other early leaders in the arms race for the perfect paper bottle have been two consortiums. One, the Paboco which is a shortening of the Paper Bottle Company, and that's largely Coca-Cola, L'Oreal, and Absolut.

And the other is Pulpex. Pulpex is backed by the spirits giant Diageo. Now both of those take a decidedly purist attitude towards a paper bottle and try and eliminate the plastic liner completely by instead relying on additives like a mineral additive, or perhaps some binders and other techniques to create a liquid barrier layer.

Now, Ecologic from its inception as a start-up is fundamentally different like that, they're essentially hoping to ship nested shells of the pulp material to their customers. And then the customers would then be filling onsite at their own filling locations, the blown film, or the blown bottles PET or HDPE or otherwise.

So two different approaches, but what's unique is that Ecologic now has the backing of a giant with Jabil and Jabil's a company with 27 billion in sales, billion with a B in sales.

So anyways, you've got two unique and kind of distinct ways to skin the same cat, and the fact that we've got the backing of Coca-Cola and Diageo, and a company like Jabil now with a startup of Ecologic, really shows me that there's a lot of positive momentum in the paper bottle space.

Thanks for watching Take Five with Packaging World.

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