US – In an effort to scale up its sustainability efforts, World’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, has unveiled a new barley-based six pack beer packaging for its Corona beer brand.

The company said it was repurposing surplus barley straw from beer-making supply chains into new packaging material for one of the world’s most popular beer, in a circular process targeting waste elimination.

The new concept is based on three years of research, by AB InBev’s Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITEC). The research resulted in a packaging that uses 90 percent less water, less energy, and “behaves just like regular paper when recycled.”

According to a statement from AB InBev, the material from the upcycled barley is combined with 100 percent recycled wood fibers, creating a paperboard to produce new packaging that is as strong and durable as a regular six-pack, but better for the planet.

“It is able to carry six cold beer bottles from the store fridge to the beach, but uses far fewer resources along the way,” AB InBev says.

An initial 10,000 six-packs have been rolled out as a pilot in Colombia this month. Plans are underway to launch additional six packs in Argentina later in 2021, as Corona looks to scale the new solution globally.

“Corona is a brand born at the beach. We’re deeply connected with nature and appreciate all that it has to offer, so we want to continue to do our part to protect it,” says Felipe Ambra, global vice president of marketing at Corona.

Upon completion of the successful pilot, AB InBev will review rolling out the technology to other brands.

Corona,  a champion of the ocean

This is not the first time the Corona Beer brand is adopting sustainable packaging for its beer. In 2018, the Mexican lager brand debuted plastic-free six-pack rings which are made from plant-based biodegradable fibres, with a mix of by-product waste and compostable materials.

At the time, Corona said that if left in the environment, its six-pack rings break down into organic material that is not harmful to wildlife.

Corona added that the move was part of its commitment with non-profit organisation Parley for the Oceans.

The introduction of packaged made from upcycled Barley is yet another demonstration of the company’s commitment to the environment.

The company says using leftover barley straw  is “far more productive than the equivalent area of woodland.”

The company sees this as one path forward to eliminate the need for virgin trees and raw material from their supply chain in the future.

“At AB InBev we are continually pushing boundaries by developing scalable solutions. Today is a proud moment for us, not only are we providing an opportunity for farmers but we’re also delivering a more mindful solution to the consumer,” says Keenan Thompson, director of packaging innovation at AB InBev.

Upcycling is the new recycling

In line with Innova Market Insights’ third top packaging trend for 2021, “Fiber-based Frenzy,” innovation in plastic-replacement fiber-based and upcycled solutions is booming as brands explore plastic waste escape routes and new connections with the enlarging eco-conscious consumer base.

In this space, edible spoons by Spoontainable provide a circular and environment-neutral alternative to single-use cutlery, upcycling unused cocoa shells and oat husks in the process.

Cargill and renewable energy company Virent, meanwhile, are working together to evaluate the use of Cargill’s corn dextrose as a feedstock for Virent’s BioForming technology, producing raw material for packaging solutions.

The companies are demonstrating this technology’s applicability in upcycling waste streams from any plant source.

Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Business Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food and agro industry. SUBSCRIBE HERE