Football stadiums may lose PET flavor

The future for plastic beer bottles, at least those marketed through sports venues, suffered a major setback after two mid-December bottle-throwing incidents at NFL football games in Cleveland and in New Orleans.

By early January, at least three pro football stadiums banned the sales of beer in plastic bottles for the remainder of the season. And George Staphos of Salomon Smith Barney reported that other teams are reviewing their policies not only on bottled beer but on plastic bottles for water and soft drinks as well. Staphos predicted that some brewers may rethink their PET bottle strategies for beer, “given liability issues.” Professor Karen Proctor, chair of packaging science at Rochester Institute of Technology, is convinced that the sports market for plastic beer bottles will disappear. “I don’t think there’s any alternative because of the danger.” She predicts that the beer delivery system will return to paper or plastic cups, primarily because they can’t be used as projectiles. This despite the fact that handling a customer a bottle is much quicker than pouring a cup and handing it to the customer, one reason that beer vendors favored the bottles. “It’s too bad, because if you look at the beer market, the plastic bottle hasn’t done well, except for the sports and entertainment venues,” Dr. Proctor believes. So, thanks to fans in Cleveland and New Orleans, she predicts a return to cups—and longer concession lines. At press time, Miller Brewing spokesman Scott Bussen said his company “hopes that people will look at the real issue, fan behavior. If it’s not plastic beer bottles, it’s snowballs, batteries, or team giveaway products.” Like Dr. Proctor, Bussen feels precipitous actions against the container “punishes the vendors who prefer them, plus the vast majority of fans who know how to behave.” Still, Bussen said, Miller will support each team’s action; if they want to change packages, Miller can supply its products in other containers. (AO)

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