Starting in the late 90s and continuing through to today, plastic has been largely responsible for a boom in the beverages industry. However, as consumers shift away from pre-packaged and bottled beverages, will the plastics and beverages industry take a hit to overall sales?
For the past few decades, plastic bottles have caused a surge in the purchasing of certain types of beverages, specifically water. In recent years water sales have soared, largely due to single-serve plastic water bottles becoming more commonly used for packaging. Prior to this, water was mainly sold in large plastic water jugs for homes and offices. While plastic water jugs did allow for the commercial sale of water, many preferred tap water, as it was simply more efficient than carrying large, heavy jugs.
However, the use of the single-serve plastic water bottle changed this dramatically. Sales for bottled water soared as an increasingly health-focused general population swapped out sugary sodas and other drinks for bottled water. At its peak, consumers were drinking hundreds of gallons of water per person out of single-use plastic bottles annually. The plastics industry also benefited from this trend; 107.5 billion pounds of plastics and resins were manufactured in 2013, a dramatic increase over 2012’s 105.9 billion pounds.
Recently, the future of plastic water bottles has been far less certain. As consumers begin to opt for more environmentally conscious options, fewer people are looking to purchase single-serve plastic bottles. As a result, manufacturers are left with a difficult task: making plastic bottles that use progressively less and less plastic, or finding an alternative that will appeal to a more climate-minded general public.
As many locations plan to go to extreme lengths to reduce plastic bottle use, with some places even banning the plastic containers, the plastics industry will have to adapt. Perhaps the days of large plastic water jugs will return, with people and offices using these options to avoid single-use items. However, it’s still possible that plastic bottle manufacturing companies will be able to adjust their products to fit this new consumer mindset.