Corona turns surplus barley straw into sustainable packaging material

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You could be forgiven for thinking that sales of Corona beer had plummeted over the past 12 months of Coronavirus madness, social media certainly suggested this would be the case at the start of the pandemic. However, due to the large scale closure of the hospitality industry quite the opposite is true – off-trade sales of Corona increased by £68m to £237m by September 2020. Now Corona has revealed a new sustainable packaging made using barley.

The new sustainable packaging solution was developed over three years in the Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITEC) of Corona’s parent company AB InBev. The packaging will launch today with an initial 10,000 six-packs rolling out as a pilot in Colombia in March, followed by Argentina later in 2021 as Corona looks to scale the new solution globally.

Why use repurposed barley for packaging?

Barley seed is used to make Corona beer itself but its waste product, barley straw, is typically a waste product with little use to farmers. Thanks to this newly developed technology waste barley straw will now be used to make sustainable packaging through a unique pulping process (purpose built to handle the straw’s natural fragility).

Combined with 100% recycled wood fibres, the manufacturing process creates a paper board to produce new packaging that is as strong and durable as a regular six-pack, but better for the planet. The environmentally friendly material is able to carry six cold beer bottles from the store fridge to the beach, but using far fewer resources along the way.

Turning barley straw into paper fibre uses 90% less water in its production than the traditional virgin wood process, along with less energy and fewer harsh chemicals. Using leftover barley straw is also far more productive than the equivalent area of woodland*, and Corona sees this as one path forward to eliminate the need for virgin trees and raw material from their supply chain in the future.

AB InBev is carefully monitoring the success of the project with an eye on rolling out the technology to its other brands, thereby increasing the potential positive environmental impact and the ability to influence the entire beverage industry.

Keenan Thompson, Director of Packaging Innovation at AB InBev, said: “We’re excited to finally launch this new packaging innovation we’ve been developing over the past three years. At AB InBev we are continually pushing boundaries by developing scalable solutions. Today is a proud moment for us, not only are we providing an opportunity for farmers but we’re also delivering a more mindful solution to the consumer.”

* Equivalent area of woodland is calculated with data from Washington State.

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Matt has worked in digital publishing for twenty years, holding management positions at Nature (nature.com) and William Reed Business Media (foodmanufacture.co.uk etc.). He has also worked with BBC Worldwide, Centaur Media, UKi Media and Mark Allen Group. Since 2010 Matt has been a digital consultant working with B2B media companies in the agricultural, automotive, aviation, robotics and technology sectors. As Chairman of his local allotment association Matt grows his own food whilst chasing the dream of a one tonne giant pumpkin. He is a member of the British Garden Media Guild and was a finalist in the Garden Media Guild Awards 'blog of the year' category in 2018 and 2019.

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