The Cola Wars have entered into a new, green phase. No longer focused on blind taste tests, Coke and Pepsi have for the past two years been engaged in a race to the top to bring plant-based, recyclable beverage bottles to market.
Coke scored the first hit back in 2009 with the announcement of its PlantBottle, made of 30 percent sugar-based plastics but still completely recyclable with regular plastic packaging.
Pepsi then took a big step forward earlier this year with the unveiling of plans to bring a 100 percent plant-based bottle to market as soon as 2013.
Coke, which says it has already sold 10 billion drinks around the world in PlantBottles, moved this morning to retake the lead with the announcement today that it has launched three strategic partnerships to bring next-gen PlantBottles to market.
The company is teaming up with Virent, Gevo and Avantium, each of which have developed alternatives to oil-based plastics, to develop and speed to market fully recyclable and fully fossil-fuel-free plastics.
"While the technology to make bio-based materials in a lab has been available for years, we believe Virent, Gevo and Avantium are companies that possess technologies that have high potential for creating them on a global commercial-scale within the next few years," Rick Frazier, Vice President of Commercial Product Supply for the Coca-Cola Company, said in a statement. "This is a significant R&D investment in packaging innovation and is the next step toward our vision of creating all of our plastic packaging from responsibly sourced plant-based materials."
Each of the partners will follow their own timeline for developing the materials, with Virent setting 2015 for its target date to open the first full-scale commercial plant to produce its PET made from bio-based paraxylene.
Coca-Cola intends to replace all of its petroleum-based plastics with biobased materials by 2020, with the PlantBottle a central element of that goal. The company has already created a 100 percent plant-based bottle for its Odwalla beverage line, but the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material for that packaging is not suitable for carbonated or room-temperature beverages.