Opinion from global food and drink experts, Zenith Global

Some people are so prejudiced. Especially when it comes to big corporations. In G20 week, the motives of world business are under greater scrutiny than ever.

The more I look, however … and I look a lot, the more I find that most market leaders have been working diligently behind the scenes for years to take the right actions. The people who work there are no different to you and me.

So, I was reassured when Coca-Cola recently published the carbon footprints of its main brands in Britain.

First, it undertook a complete life cycle analysis, including:

  • ingredients
  • packaging
  • manufacturing
  • distribution
  • storage and refrigeration
  • consumer use and disposal.

Second, it provided actual figures per pack:

CO2e emissions

in litres


per pack


per litre

Glass 0.33
Can 0.33
Diet Coke/Coke Zero
Can 0.33
PET 0.5
PET 2.0
Diet Coke/Coke Zero
PET 2.0
Glass 0.375
PET 0.5

Notably, packaging accounted for between 30% and 70% of the total. Recycling a 33cl Coca-Cola can would reduce its footprint by 41% to 100 grams.

Third, it showed how far it has already moved to reduce emissions:

  • 50% recycled content in aluminium cans
  • 40% recycled glass in glass bottles
  • 25% recycled PET in PET across Europe in 2010.

Fourth, it gave access to much more detail, which is to be found at



This seems an intelligent example for others to follow. If you would like assistance for your own company’s calculation and improvement, Zenith has a dedicated Sustainability Consulting team that would be delighted to help.

I don’t really do technology. My focus is primarily on society and consumers, brands and producers. But at our Global Soft Drinks Congress a fortnight ago in Germany, I was particularly impressed by six supplier presentations that showed how much can be saved in operating costs by pushing to the limits of new technology.

  • Water usage can be reduced by 70% using Sidel’s dry sterilisation process, along with numerous other efficiency improvements in energy, cleaning and compressed air.
  • Integrated energy production facilities from ContourGlobal can increase bottling efficiency by over 40%, accompanied by other benefits for energy and CO2, carbon and air emissions.
  • 50% PET weight reductions in bottle neck threads were demonstrated by Sipa.
  • Further 35% lightweighting opportunities for caps were presented by Bericap.
  • A 74% carbon footprint reduction was offered by CCL through switching to super stretch sleeve labels instead of shrink sleeves.
  • Up to 50% sales increases have been achieved by use of Frigoglass ice cold merchandisers.

For more information on the Congress presentations, go to www.zenithinternational.com/events. If you have other significant cost saving examples, please do send them to me.

Apparently it takes 600 gallons of water to grow the corn to produce one gallon of ethanol.

For a car that achieves 20 miles per gallon of ethanol, that means a water footprint of 30 gallons per mile.

My thanks to Doug in the US for this information. As he says – Awful.

4 x 4s, plastic bags, bottled water. Tonnes of oil, loads of waste, bottled water evil, drink from the tap.

This sounds great. Save money, salvage conscience. But there is a real danger that common sense could be turned upside down.

Water is as healthy as can be. It has almost no downsides, unlike any other product.

Stop bottled water in its tracks and people will become

  • less well hydrated and less healthy, because 50% of bottled water is drunk on the move and they will drink less liquid
  • fatter when obesity is already a major social concern, because most of bottled water’s recent growth has been as a replacement of calorie containing drinks.

Ah, but switching from bottle to tap will save the environment. Well, no actually. Bottled water uses less water and packaging than any other ready to drink beverage. Only a tiny proportion comes from outside Europe.

Two action points would be good though.

  • Government should encourage local authorities to recycle more plastic. Levels could be doubled if all areas followed best practice.
  • Public water supply companies could do more to reduce leakage. At present leakage is over 1,000 times the level of bottled water consumption.

What about the 1 billion plus people around the world without proper access to water ? Well, bottled water companies are doing proportionately more than any other grocery sector.

But isn’t all water the same ? Shouldn’t we just go back to the tap ? I’m a fan of tap water. I drink it a lot. But in the office we have water coolers for chilled water and jug filters for hot drinks. Sometimes I prefer a water from a protected known source where the water has had no chemical treatment. In other instances, it’s a matter of convenience or taste. Should I be made to feel guilty for these entirely reasonable and informed healthy choices ? I believe bottled water is much more on the side of the angels than a sinner.

So how should one respond to a Minister who says bottled water is morally unacceptable ? First, he should retract it because he is wrong. Second, he should concentrate more on real answers to public health, climate change and world poverty. Bottled water’s carbon footprint is just 0.1% of the UK total. What about the other 99.9% ? If that’s not tackled, then bottled water will be needed for more flood relief emergencies, not less.