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Danielle Jerschefske: Packaging hoax might point the way

Social media channels were buzzing on Monday thanks to a YouTube video purporting to announce Coca-Cola’s launch of a biodegradable plastic bag to house the soft drink.

The idea was reported to have originated in the Central American country of El Salvador, where consumers were said to be buying Coca-Cola in plastic bags to avoid paying a deposit on returnable bottles.

A YouTube video – in which the company said it had launched a cheap, branded plastic bag shaped like the brand’s iconic bottle – was picked up by a number of news websites.

After perusing various websites and not finding any substantiated claim for the new packaging, I contacted Coca-Cola’s headquarters. In the meantime, packaging folk began reporting on social networking sites that the company had dismissed the notion.

That afternoon, I received a response from the international beverage company’s PR manager for Central America, Gustavo Guillén, making it clear that Coca-Cola had nothing to do with the video and that no such product was being used in Central America.

The core idea behind the hoax, though, was a good one. There is no doubt that a real version of this ‘biodegradable bag’ could be of great benefit to any underdeveloped market. I have seen the use of plastic ‘pouches’ for water in Senegal in Western Africa, for example, where many people can’t afford to buy water in much quantity. This small innovation overcomes a problem for consumers in an affordable way.

These smaller markets – without recycling infrastructure and where purchasing in tiny quantities is the norm – yearn for viable solutions from international brands. Of course, it must allow locals to enjoy their favorite product, safely, once it has successfully made it through the rigors of the supply chain.

Could this be a packaging innovation in the pipeline? Every market holds opportunity for those companies willing to understand the consumers and innovate to meet their needs.

Danielle Jerschefske, North America editor, L&L

Pictured: Coca-Cola's supposed biodegradable plastic bag


Danielle Jerschefske is Labels & Labeling's sustainability consultant.

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