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“Naked For Now”: Coca-Cola trials label-free Sprite bottles in the UK to streamline recycling processes

#“Naked For Now”: Coca-Cola trials label-free Sprite bottles in the UK to streamline recycling processes

Sprite label-less bottle
All image credits: Coca-Cola.

01 Feb 2024 — Coca-Cola is stripping all labels from Sprite bottles in the UK as part of a trial aimed at simplifying recycling processes and reducing packaging materials.

The pilot involves temporarily removing labels from 5,000 Sprite and 5,000 Sprite Zero 500 mL bottles. Instead, an embossed logo adorns the front of the bottle, while product information will be laser-engraved on the back.

With an emphasis on reducing environmental impact, the label-less bottles will be produced using 100% recycled PET material, excluding caps. These bottles, recognizable by their green or transparent caps for Sprite and Sprite Zero, respectively, will be available in eight selected Tesco Express Stores across Brighton and Hove, Bristol, London and Manchester until March 2024.

The trial aims to assess consumer response and operational feasibility. If successful, it could pave the way for broader adoption of label-less packaging across Coca-Cola’s product range. However, the company emphasizes the need for thorough evaluation before any permanent changes are made by clarifying the limited nature of the trial through its “Naked For Now” ad campaign.

close up of Sprite Zero laser engraved bottle neckTwo types of technology are employed in the trial: Fiber lasers to engrave the bottles and innovative molds to emboss them.“This design change is one of many we are trialing across our range of drinks. These trials often start small, on one of our products, so that we can capture learnings and understand if, and how, they can be scaled,” asserts the company.

Label-less on-the-go
The label-less bottles have laser-etched information on the back, which reportedly doesn’t interfere with the recycling process. Coca-Cola details that the traffic light labels won’t be visible on the bottles for this trial. Instead, all information will be available through a QR code laser engraved on the bottle.

Coca-Cola further shares that two types of technology are employed in the trial — fiber lasers to laser engrave the on-the-go trial bottles and innovative molds to emboss them. “Fiber lasers have been commercially available for a few years, but this trial enables us to test an approach that increases their speed and use of space on our filling lines and the potential to operate different lasers on one control unit.”

“This temporary UK trial is one of many that Coca‑Cola has run across our range of drinks. We’ve run label-less trials in other key markets around the world — with Sprite in South Korea, Coca‑Cola in Japan and with Valser water in Switzerland. We have already captured important learnings about label-less bottles through these trials, and we’re excited to learn more in the UK,” details the beverage giant.

“Unique to this trial is that this is the first time we’ve trialed label-less on a single-unit on-the-go 500 mL bottle sold in-store. Other label-less trials have either been on multi-pack products — where labeling information was moved to the outer packaging — or, on single-unit bottles sold online — where labeling information appeared at the point of sale online.”

Reductions and gains
The removal of the recyclable plastic label for the Sprite bottles is said to equate to saving 2.8 kg of CO2 emissions for every 1,000 label-less bottles produced. Additionally, the trial innovation represents a 2% plastic weight reduction per bottle. Sprite and Sprite Zero bottles with label less packagingUnique to UK trial is that this is the first time Coca-Cola is trialing label-less on a single-unit bottle sold in-store.

“Labels contain valuable information for consumers, but with the help of technology, we can now trial other ways to share this information while reducing the amount of packaging we use,” says Dusan Stojankic, vice president of Franchise Operations, GB&I at Coca-Cola Great Britain.

“Going label-less might seem like a small step, but it is one of several ways we are exploring making recycling easier, minimizing waste and the impact of our packaging on the environment.”

Javier Meza, vice president of Marketing at Coca-Cola Europe, echoes Stojankic’s sentiment, calling the trial a milestone for the industry. “It’s the first time these two technologies have been used in a pilot globally, where a Coca‑Cola product will appear in a label-less, single-unit bottle sold in-store.”

“Although the design change may sound simple, this is a big shift from a marketing perspective. This trial could contribute to longer-term changes to how brands communicate with their consumers,” shares Meza.

The move aligns with Coca-Cola’s commitment to a “World Without Waste,” striving to collect and recycle one bottle or can for each sold by 2030. As the trial progresses, Coca-Cola anticipates valuable insights to inform future sustainability initiatives.

By Radhika Sikaria

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