by Rick Lingle, Editor in Chief

Denise Lefebvre’s newly created position in June 2011 makes her responsible for new package formats from concept through commercialization across PepsiCo’s beverage business globally, sharing of Best Practices, technology transfer, and identification of new technologies the company can use to drive either growth or productivity throughout its business.

F&BP: What trends do you see in beverage packaging?

Lefebvre: As consumers move continually toward health and wellness, the packaging requirements are becoming stricter than ever in terms of active packaging, whether that be barrier, enhanced product protection or increased functionality of some nature. While that’s always been a requirement, we’re seeing it move to new heightened levels.

The second “lever” is design, which has long been a familiar theme, but is taken to the next level in terms of packaging. What it can do for the consumer, both functionally and how it pops on shelf to help sell products.

The last piece in packaging is sustainability, which is critical. I would tie that in with localization. Consumers are really about getting to authentic products that are local to them and knowing where everything comes from in the supply chain. 

Consumers understand sustainability and want it.

There is a “halo” effect to packaging and sustainability in that consumers want something natural and authentic, but not overpackaged. Anything feeling much more organic is very important for them and will continue for some time.

Also, the world of [carbonated soft drinks] has had historically great graphics, but I see a big shift at better packaging graphics and structure coming together in that category and others.

F&BP: PepsiCo is taking its PET bottle development into rather unusual sources…what can you comment about that?

Lefebvre: The creation of a 100% plant-based PET bottle is a very exciting program for us. We are currently using non-feedstock sources like switch grass and pine bark, so we aren’t diverting otherwise usable food sources for our product packaging. In the future we intend to broaden the renewable sources used to create the bottle to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural by-products from our foods business. The ability to manufacture our packaging through a closed-loop system is unique to PepsiCo and reinforces our “Power of One” advantage by driving a strategic beverage innovation via a food-based solution.

We are in the midst of vetting technologies to prepare for our 2012 pilot plant project to introduce some of these bottles into the market. It’s fundamental to the program to really understand things like yield loss and efficiency rates to get the final costing down and to understand the quality and productivity of those products. We’re also aggressively pursuing a commercial pathway in conjunction with determining a pilot plant location.F&BP