Multipack ‘topper’ boosts Coca-Cola’s packaging sustainability

By Kate Bertrand Connolly in Sustainable Packaging on November 22, 2019

The Coca-Cola Co. has announced yet another sustainable packaging launch for non-alcohol canned drinks in Europe. The company, together with Coca-Cola HBC and Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), plans to roll out a streamlined paperboard “topper” for can multipacks in Europe next year.

The KeelClip topper will be used in place of shrink wrap to combine cans in multipacks. Supplied by Graphic Packaging Int’l (GPI), the topper completely covers the can tops and provides a printable surface for brand and product information. (See a video showing the multipacking operation from GPI here.)

This beverage packaging design reduces plastic waste by substituting recyclable paperboard—a minimal amount of paperboard, at that—for challenging-to-recycle shrink wrap. The KeelClip project aligns with Coca-Cola’s global World Without Waste initiative, whose goal is to collect and recycle a can or bottle for each one Coca-Cola sells by 2030.

Coca-Cola HBC, a leading Coca-Cola bottler, plans to introduce the topper on multipacks sold in Ireland and Poland in early 2020. Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Romania will follow later in the year.

By the end of 2021, the topper multipacks will be in distribution in all of Coca-Cola HBC’s European Union (EU) markets. The plan is to use the topper on multipacks of up to eight cans and to use cartons for larger can multipacks. Ultimately, Coca-Cola HBC intends to eliminate shrink wrap from its can multipacks in the EU by the end of 2021.

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The other partner in the project, CCEP, plans to introduce the paperboard topper in the Netherlands in early 2020, with additional countries to follow. CCEP reports it has invested €14 million in the installation of a new can filling line and KeelClip packaging machine at its Dongen, Netherlands, plant.

Packaging Digest recently reported on CCEP’s intention to switch from shrink wrap to recyclable, sustainably sourced paperboard sleeves for multipacks. CCEP is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, based on revenue, and serves numerous Western European countries.

Coca-Cola’s application marks the first use of the topper for non-alcohol, ready-to-drink beverages. GPI announced in October 2019 that AB InBev will start using the KeelClip structure for its beer brands, including Bud Light, in March 2020 in the United Kingdom.

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