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Heinz Ketchup to Use Coca-Cola's Plantbottle

At a press conference this morning, the Coca-Cola Company and H.J. Heinz Company announced a strategic partnership that enables Heinz to produce its ketchup bottles using Coca-Cola's PlantBottle packaging.

This shift in packaging will be the biggest change to Heinz’s iconic ketchup bottles since the company first introduced plastic in 1983.  Heinz plans to convert to PlantBottle globally, beginning with the 20-ounce variety of Heinz Ketchup, which will be rolled out to US consumers this summer. The packaging will be identified by a special logo and on-pack messages.

As you may recall, Coca-Cola first launched the PlantBottle in 2009. The technology has been described as “breakthrough” and “revolutionary” because the PlantBottle:

  • looks, feels and functions just like traditional PET plastic,

  • is fully recyclable, and yet

  • is made from up to 30 percent renewable, sustainably-sourced plant-based material.

The plant-based material is produced through an innovative process that converts natural sugars found in plants into a key component for PET plastic. (See more details about the process in this earlier post.)

“We believe it has the capability to revolutionize food packaging the world-over,” Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said. “With PlantBottle, we aim to reduce and eventually completely replace the use of non-renewable fossil fuels in plastic packaging.”

Currently, PlantBottle is made using sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, which, as Coca-Cola points out, is the only source widely recognized by thought-leaders globally for its unique environmental and social performance. Kent said that most sugarcane in Brazil is grown on degraded pastures located over 2,000 km from the Amazon, reducing its impact on biodiversity. In addition, Coca-Cola sources from farms which use “effective cultivation processes,” he added, explaining that the sugarcane is predominantly rain-fed and mechanically harvested. (More PlantBottle FAQs are available here.)

Both Coca-Cola and Heinz see sustainable packaging as a key component of their sustainability commitments. Heinz wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste, water consumption and energy usage at least 20 percent by 2015.  While at Coca-Cola, the PlantBottle has already had a significant impact. An initial life-cycle analysis conducted by Imperial College London showed that the use of PlantBottle packaging provides a 12-19 percent reduction in carbon impact. The company says that in 2010 alone, PlantBottle packaging eliminated the equivalent of almost 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or approximately 60,000 barrels of oil.

This year, Coca-Cola plans to double its use of PlantBottle; that means the company will use more than 5 billion PlantBottles in 2011. Heinz says it will introduce 120 million PlantBottle packages this year.

This morning, both companies stressed how collaboration is becoming increasingly important to corporate sustainability initiatives.

“This partnership in my view is a win-win for both Coca-Cola and Heinz,” William R. Johnson, Heinz Chairman, President and CEO, said. “It’s a model of collaboration in the food and beverage industry that will make a sustainable difference for the planet while exciting our consumers and our retail trade partners.”

Kent described collaborations like these as part of a “golden triangle of partnerships” between business, government and society.

“We know that the real opportunity lies in pushing innovations like the PlantBottle more broadly through the consumer goods industry,” he said, later adding that one of his dreams is to be able to offer consumers a completely consumable product.

In other words, maybe one day, people will be able to drink a Coke and then eat the bottle –“with ketchup,” he joked.

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at www.CorporateWriter4Hire.com . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.

Read more stories by Kathryn Siranosian