Corona debuts circular packaging made from barley straw


Dive Brief:

  • Corona has unveiled sustainable packaging that repurposes barley straw into packaging material for its six-packs, according to a press release. It is debuting the new packaging in 10,000 six-packs in Colombia during March, with Argentina to follow later in 2021. AB InBev, which owns the rights to Corona in every country but the United States, aims to eventually scale the packaging globally. 
  • The technology behind the packaging was developed over three years at AB InBev’s Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITEC). The process of transforming barley straw into paper fiber uses 90% less water, less energy and fewer harsh chemicals than the traditional process for virgin wood, according to the company.
  • Corona says the barley straw packaging is as strong and durable as a regular six-pack. With this technology, the brand is hoping to eliminate the need to harvest virgin timber to produce cardboard for its packaging materials.

Dive Insight:

Sustainable packaging has been at the forefront of consumers’ minds in recent years. Societal concern over waste, climate change, and reducing one’s carbon footprint have led a number of brands across various segments to swap out their existing packaging materials for more sustainable options.

Corona has upped the ante with its new packaging by sourcing crop residues from the barley grown to brew its beer to make the new packaging. Upcycling and circular manufacturing are emerging concepts in the effort to more carefully manage natural resources, and so far consumers are in support of them. Consumer concern over the environment and how food production impacts it has even increased during the pandemic, according to research from global management and consulting firm Kearney.

AB InBev’s US division, Anheuser-Busch, has been making a number of strides in terms of improving its sustainability efforts. Most recently, it announced that it will spend roughly $100 million on solar panel installments and water treatment improvements over the next two years. 

Some of Anheuser-Busch’s other packaging-focused efforts include crafting new sustainable aluminum cans in partnership with miner Rio Tinto. It also pledged to brew all of its Budweiser label beers using 100% renewable energy by 2025. With 41 million Budweiser beers sold daily, switching to renewable energy would be the equivalent of removing 48,000 passenger cars from the road each year, according to the company.

Anheuser-Busch is also working closely with the farmers who grow the barley, rice, and hops it uses to brew its beers to make sustainability improvements at the farm level. This includes providing farmers with strict protocols about crop production. It’s also exploring organic farming production, investing in research to develop barley that can better tolerate drought-related stress, and partnering with food tech company Benson Hill to develop more sustainable varieties.

A number of other brewers are opting for new packaging materials that satisfy consumers’ new sustainability demands. Danish brewing company Carlsberg is experimenting with glue in its can production process to remove about 1,200 tons of plastic each year if fully adopted. It’s also developing what it describes as the world’s first paper beer bottle called the Green Fibre Bottle, which it has been working on since 2015 in partnership with a number of packaging industry players and the Danish Technical University.

Meanwhile, Kinsbrae Packaging is helping Canadian brewers swap out their packaging materials for more sustainable options to replace single-use plastic materials. And a company called PakTech is turning discarded plastic beer carriers into 100% post-recycled material versions.