Canadian Packaging

Liquor retailers embracing PET bottles


August 20, 2010
by Canadian Packaging staff

You would have to look pretty closely at the shelves to notice, and maybe even touch them to be sure, but between one-quarter and one-third of all liquor sold in Canada today is packaged in plastic bottles, according to some of the industry’s top producers and retailers.

But while liquor PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles usually appear remarkably similar to their glass counterparts, there is little comparison in the many consumer and environmental benefits that a well-made PET container delivers over glass—including shatterproof design, reliable cap resealability, and lightweight construction (up 30 per cent lighter than glass) that enables dramatic transportation cost cuts across the supply chain, along with welcome reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Plastic liquor bottles are a convenient choice that our customers feel good about using,” says Corby Distilleries Limited vice-president of external affairs Howard Kirke, citing cottages, parties and outdoor events as perfect occasions for using PET beverage containers.

Although plastic liquor bottles were first introduced in Canada about a decade ago, it is only in the last few years that they started to gain significant shelf space across with the country’s provincial and private liquor distributor, Kirke notes, citing popular Corby brands—including Polar Ice Vodka, Lamb’s Rum and Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Whisky—that have made the switch to PET packaging.

According to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, almost 50 per cent of Smirnoff Vodka in 750-ml bottles now sells in plastic containers, which also account for a 40-percent share of the sales of 750-ml Captain Morgan White rum bottles, sales in 750 ml bottles, plastic now accounts for about 40 per cent of sales even though the PET version was only recently introduced.

Across Canada, the high-grade PET containers are also valued recyclables: Toronto residents can either use their Blue Bins or get deposit refunds at The Beer Store outlets, while Halifax residents can also get their deposits back at the ENVIRO-Depot locations.

For liquor retailers, the growing use of plastic bottles has already resulted in dramatically reduced breakage rates—with some distributors reporting waste reductions of up to 90 per cent.

And while traditional glass bottles still outnumber their PET alternatives at most Canadian liquor stores by some margin, that dominance  is eroding all the time, according to Dave Birkby, president and chief executive officer of Westbridge PET Containers in Calgary, Alta.

“Consumers today are much more environmentally-conscious, and if they can make a difference through their purchasing decisions, they will,” Birkby states.

“Here’s a big cheer to yet another example of what plastics innovation can achieve,” adds Mark Badger, president of the Mississauga, Ont.-based Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA). “It’s further proof that today’s intelligent