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Senior politician puts future of PET in Russian beer market in doubt

Russia is threatening to ban sales of PET beer bottles but a new report from Pira indicates that the global popularity of the plastic among brewers is on the increase.

Russian deputy Viktor Zvagelsky is introducing a bill that would ban sales of PET beer bottles by January 1, 2013.

As part of ongoing efforts to fight Russia’s alcohol problem, the bill aims to prevent sales of big volume bottles and is being accompanied by restrictions on high-strength beer and night time sales.

Nick Waite, head of market research at Pira, which has just published a study on PET in the beer market, said: “There is a good chance that the law will be passed.”

If the law does come into force, it is likely to have a major impact on the PET beer market globally as Russia is one of the biggest markets in the world.

Ironically PET had established such a major foothold in the country because of previous government policies to fight alcohol abuse.

Waite explained: “You had a significant reduction in glass bottle capacity in Russia at the time of Gorbachev's anti-alcohol crusade in the 1980s and the effect was that glass bottles were reused time and time again, sometimes showing signs of damage/staining, and the result was that glass lost some of its cachet and Russian consumers were a bit more open to the idea of PET.”

Despite the potential setback in Russia, Pira expects that PET will continue to become more popular in global markets as technical improvements make the packaging option more attractive. For example, oxygen scavenging closures can now be used to remove oxygen throughout the life of a product so a PET packaged beer can have a lower oxygen content on the shelf than it had when first filled.

Global growth forecast

Overall Pira predicts that global PET beer bottle consumption will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3 per cent to reach 7.7 billion bottles by 2015.

PET has plenty of potential for growth as it currently holds just 2 per cent of the global beer packaging market. Asia had been tipped as the big driver for future growth but Pira said that recent growth in China has been less than what some had hoped for.

Waite said: “Consumers new to beer in China tend to prefer beer in glass as glass has the same kind of prestige status as in the west.”

He added that “the jury is out” on the potential of PET beer bottles in China but Pira is more optimistic about other markets. Brewers are preparing for a big PET push in India and so growth there is expected to be high.

And in mature markets PET is being used more and more to package beer. Waite said: “PET is increasingly used for the packaging of beer sold at outdoor events. PET is more suitable than glass here for safety reasons more than anything as it is unbreakable, but it is also easy to carry around. Safety and convenience elements may in time lead to PET bottles being used in nightclubs although to date it has not made significant inroads here.”

11 May. 2011

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