A transparent partnership

Glass manufacturer Ardagh and The Absolut Company have been working closely together for more than three decades. The partnership is characterized by a mutual respect and a passion to always develop, push the envelope and do better. And latest in their great line of collaborations is the brand new Absolut bottle.

We had a chat with Peter Gunnarsson, Key Account & Sales Manager at Ardagh on his thoughts on the development process of the new Absolut bottle and the secrets to keeping the partnership flame burning for 35 years and counting.

When did you get involved in the work of updating the Absolut bottle?

– We were introduced to the re-design project in March 2019. The new design of the glass bottle didn’t impose any major changes to our machines or the process where the bottle itself is manufactured. However, the decor turned out to be a little more challenging to get right. The front of the Absolut Vodka original is quite unchanged, but the back has been given a much more detailed print, which meant that we had to develop the frost color and create better conditions for the automatic camera inspection that takes place before the bottles are burned. The design of the Flavors range has been both simplified and made more difficult depending on which flavors you look at.

The very detailed decor on the back of the bottle

How long has the development process taken?

– The development of the glass bottle itself lasted for just over 2 years. On the other hand, to some extent the development of the new decor for both Absolut Vodka original and Flavor, for example the production of new artwork and the calibration of all different colors, is still ongoing. So, all in all, we’ve worked on this project for more than 2,5 years.

The artwork and the calibration of all different colors is still ongoing

What has been most challenging with the Absolut re-design project?

– The sheer scope of the project. The fact that both glass and decor were redone for all sizes has meant extremely extensive work during the development process. It has been – and still is – very tedious and challenging in terms of planning. With the old and the new bottles living side by side for some time, it’s an incredible puzzle in terms of planning to make sure we can deliver the new bottles at the same time as we are phasing out the old ones.

The development of the glass bottle itself lasted for just over 2 years

Can you make a completely sustainable glass packaging?

– An important thing that makes a product sustainable is its ability to be recycled. This is one of the strengths of glass as a material. It can be recycled to infinity. Through a well-functioning national system for recycling, most packaging can be recycled and become new glass at our facility. In Sweden, more than 94 percent of all glass is recycled. During manufacture, it is possible to use the recycled glass and also use as much fossil-free energy as possible during melting. Combined, these two facts make for a very sustainable glass packaging.

The Absolut bottles consist of just over 50 percent recycled glass

Are there any special sustainability requirements for Absolut’s products?

– Absolut is probably the player in the premium segment that puts the highest emphasis and demands on sustainability in the world. An example is the work done in recent years to increase the proportion of recycled glass by almost 20 percent. Today, the Absolut bottles consist of just over 50 percent recycled glass. This is truly unique and quite an achievement when it comes to making clear glass bottles. And that journey continues forward. It is also worth mentioning that we at Ardagh and our partners at The Absolut Company sit down together several times a year talking through everything that has to do with reducing waste and resources. Everything from LED lamps in warehouses to biogas in production is optimized.

You are one of Absolut’s most long-term partners, more than 35 years together, what characterizes a good collaboration for you?

– The collaboration is characterized above all by the enormous respect we have for each other and the common goal of Absolut gaining market share in the growing international spirits market. Talking to each other in “we” terms is pedagogically important for both organizations, we share success and adversity.

An important thing that makes a product sustainable is its ability to be recycled. This is one of the strengths of glass as a material. It can be recycled to infinity.

What do you think the packaging industry will look like in 10 years?

– I am convinced that glass will continue to play a central role in people’s everyday lives. Glass is completely inert, which means that the content doesn’t pick up any taste or smell from the glass, which makes it optimal for goods that are to be stored for a little longer. With the technological leaps we will see coming, glass will be very attractive as a packaging material. Apart from that, I think we’ll see several different types of bio-based packaging. Again, recyclability will play a major role.

Is there any specific country that you think is a pioneer in the packaging industry?

– I’ll stick my neck out a bit and say Sweden, with 100% green electricity and an efficient factory, we believe that we are pioneers.