This is a continuation of Reusable Packaging and Pallets in the Beverage Sector (Part 1)
Reusable Bulk Packaging
Reusable bulk packaging is used both on the inbound side of bottling operation as well as for outbound. Solutions such as bulk containers to hold preform containers or bulk juice, as well as the use of layer pads, pallets and top frames are all found on the inbound side of bottling operations. On the outbound leg, we see the use of kegs in the beer industry. Aluminum beer kegs remain important in the brewing industry, although new lightweight reusable kegs featuring plastic casing and a recyclable plastic liner are now also entering the marketplace, with key benefits including lower cost, lighter weight, and less value to potential keg thieves.
Reusable Secondary Packaging
Reusable crates are commonly used for soft drinks, dairy and beer. In many applications, those crates will be emptied at the retail outlet and then returned. In some cases, especially for beer where reusable bottles are involved, the full case will be taken home and the full case of empties later returned. Reusable beverage containers are designed with an eye to durability, stacking stability, ergonomic handholds, and ease of washing and drainage. Noteworthy recent trends include the design of crates with more flexibility in accepting multiple sized containers, as well as attention to visual attractiveness and point of sale customer interaction.
Reusable pallets are used commonly for both the delivery of bottles and other supplies for beverage production, as well as the shipment of beverages to retail. Depending upon the application, such pallets may be made of various materials, including wood, plastic and sometimes aluminum or stainless steel. Depending upon the application, a variety of sizes are used. For example, a 48×40-inch footprint is often associated with delivery to large box retailers, while other common sizes include 40×40-inch for dairy, and 36×36 along with other sizes for soft drink and beer. Smaller footprints have long been advantageous in terms of easy navigation of small retail outlets and working with side load trucks.
Reusable Pallet Wrappers
While not widely used to this point in time, reusable wraps for pallets of merchandise are being used in some applications. Such wrappers are usually shrouded around the unit load of product, and then cinched and secured with Velcro straps. Where the economics of reuse and return make sense for other reusable assets, they can make sense for wrappers as well.
Reusable Packaging Service Provision
Increasingly, reusable packaging services are being offered to help packaging users increase the efficiency of their reusable packaging applications. Areas of note include the growing popularity of pallet rental, as well as third party keg retrieval. On the inbound side there is also activity in terms of divider pad and top frame rental, and 3rd party retrieval providers for beer kegs.
Other Issues: Washing and Hygiene, Return Rates and Theft
A host of other issues is also influencing the reusable packaging market for the beverage sector, ranging from hygiene to efficiency, theft and more. In particular, the hygiene of reusables in the beverage application is critical, and so reusable packaging users or service providers will ensure that reusables are properly washed, typically using automated high speed washing equipment.
Another vexing problem for reusable packaging in the beverage sector is that of theft. One observer has described retail as a black hole for reusables, which, when emptied, is often left outside and exposed to theft. Theft issues with respect to aluminum kegs, plastic packaging and pallets, and wood pallets are still far too common, and remain an important opportunity for improvement in some beverage applications.
A final note to consider, ongoing changes in beverage supply chains continue to add pressure for reusable packaging solutions to reinvent themselves, whether in minimizing stocking labor, decreasing delivery truck time at the store dock, or helping to boost customer eye appeal. While the basic principles still apply, new demands will help transition reusable packaging towards better optimizing the supply chains of tomorrow.