What you need to know

While there is a growing backlash against plastic bottles, consumers’ views toward sustainable packaging are nuanced. 78% of consumers say food and drink companies should limit their use of plastic packaging, yet a majority of consumers say sustainability plays a moderate to no role in their food/beverage purchase decision-making process. Brands must balance consumers’ desire for sustainability and low prices and frame the sustainable benefits of certain packaging types in terms consumers can understand.

The pandemic altered how consumers work, live and dine; packaging innovations can solve the needs of consumers in a post-pandemic world. A recovering economy will boost the sales of larger pack sizes as consumers spend more for products that provide a better value. However, unemployment has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, and financially stressed consumers will be drawn to small, inexpensive pack sizes. Other pandemic-related factors will push consumers to either larger or smaller beverage pack sizes.

Beverage packaging must adapt to consumers’ shifting attitudes and behaviors; for instance, the growth in the use of refillable water bottles challenges the future of packaged water, and an increased demand for sustainability could result in sustainably conscious consumers extending the plastic backlash to other beverage categories.

Fortunately, consumers are largely positive toward the beverage industry’s embrace of rPET plastic bottles, as rPET garners the highest appeal of any plastic alternative beverage packaging type. Forward-thinking brands can experiment with bold sustainable packaging solutions and on-pack claims such as carbon footprint labels, as there is a strong overlap between eco-conscious consumers and food/drink trendsetters.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on beverage packaging

  • How an unequal economic recovery creates opportunities for new packaging sizes

  • Consumers’ views toward sustainable packaging

  • Strides made by the beverage industry to increase the availability of recycled plastics


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel will cover trends in beverage package labeling, material and design in the shelf-stable and refrigerated non-alcoholic US beverage industry. The Report includes insight into consumer priorities regarding package characteristics specific to beverage categories. In addition, attitudes and behaviors regarding packaging materials and recycling are discussed, particularly as they relate to themes applicable to the Report.

While the Report focuses on non-alcoholic beverages, some innovation examples feature alcoholic beverages.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in Spring 2020, and nonessential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine rollout began in December 2020. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as vaccines are widely administered and social distancing restrictions and capacity limitations are relaxed.

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