Introducing Echovai: the world’s first returnable bottle made of thermally tempered lightweight glass
The innovative Echovai solution by Vetropack Group, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of glass packaging, showcases the world’s first returnable bottle made of tempered lightweight glass. The Echovai bottle won the Swiss Packaging Award 2023 in the Technology category, which is not only due to its lower weight, but also because of its resistance to abrasion resulting in higher circulation rates. A first pilot project with the Austrian brewery Mohrenbrauerei confirmed this, resulting in their best-seller Mohrenbräu Spezial. The resulting containers are not only more durable, but also cut logistics costs and CO2 emissions.
For years, studies have shown that reusable glass containers rank among the most sustainable and environment-friendly packaging types. Among local or regional markets with shorter distribution chains in play, reusable bottles can be a good solution to meet customer needs, to bring – depending on the scenarios – the lowest footprint of any beverage packaging option to local markets.
As climate challenges rise on the agenda, innovations in glass design are establishing a new standard for lighter, sustainable, high-quality packaging that delivers on sustainability while also communicating a brand’s identity. With the Echovai range, Vetropack has now become the world’s first manufacturer of glass packaging to introduce a solution that addresses these challenges, without compromising on the quality credentials of their glass packaging.
It is a particularly robust and material-saving form of lightweight glass bottle that is both up to 30% lighter in weight than standard returnable bottles and more resistant to abrasion.
Daniel Egger, Head of Innovation at Vetropack and one of the people responsible for the development of Echovai, explains: “This makes Echovai bottles a truly superior solution, both economically and ecologically. It actually has the potential to transform the market for returnable glass containers.”
Unique thermal process to strengthen glass bottles
The rapid heat-up and quick cooling down of the bottles during the Echovai production puts high demands on the manufacturing process. This applies to the quality of the material just as much as to the production process and systems.
“Fortunately, at Vetropack we work with bottles of high quality,” Daniel Egger said. “In addition, we adjust the entire tempering process very precisely to the individual container and its shape. It’s a very sophisticated, technologically demanding process that cannot be implemented easily, hence our phased approach to roll out.”
It took around ten years of development work at the Vetropack Innovation Centre for Echovai to become reality. In 2020 the Mohrenbrauerei started using Vetropack’s lightweighting glass bottles for their Pfiff “March Beer” and Radler varieties. And they are already planning to move more of their beer specialties into these innovative lightweight glass bottles. Daniel Eggers expects demand for the Echovai bottle to grow quickly: “Especially since the performance of Echovai in our pilot project is really outstanding.”
Offering durable environmental benefits
As people try to cut back on packaging, glass is the only packaging material that consumers say they used more over the last three years. This is not surprising given that glass manufacturers across Europe have come a long way in making glass packaging more sustainable and climate neutral. Today glass is already 30% lighter and emits 50% less CO2 than fifty years ago. What’s more, the industry continues to look for new techniques and innovations to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions.
For the 0.33-litre returnable bottles alone, the use of the Echovai solution (210 grams) results in a weight saving of around a third compared to the standard bottles previously used (300 grams). At the same time, the lightweight glass bottles can be stored six high instead of five on a pallet due to their reduced height. This has enormous effects on the logistics volume and resulted in the CO2 emissions per bottle to fall to only a quarter of a normal 0.33-litre returnable bottle.
In terms of robustness, Echovai is also showing strong performance: not only do fewer bottles break during industrial use, but after three years and up to 12 cycles, the containers show hardly any sign of abrasion.
“A large part of them can still be classified as ‘as good as new’, which is not the case with standard bottles after so many cycles,” explained Daniel Egger. “We therefore expect Echovai bottles to achieve a markedly higher number of cycles – which makes them an even more compelling solution compared to standard bottles.”
Winner of the Swiss Packaging Award
Due to its significantly stronger resistance against abrasion, greater stability and environmental friendliness compared to standard bottles, Vetropack’s returnable thermally tempered lightweight Echovai bottle won the prestigious Swiss Packaging Award 2023 in the “Technology” category and the special jury prize.
The Swiss Packaging Award is an annual competition from the Swiss Packaging Institute to honor and showcase creativity and innovation in the Swiss packaging industry and celebrate outstanding achievements. As a result of this achievement, Vetropack’s innovative lightweight glass bottle also qualified for admission to the Word Packaging Award.
Making environmentally-friendly packaging a reality
Echovai bottles have the potential to appeal not only to beverage producers who already sell their products in returnable bottles. Vetropack also sees great potential for the new solution in the segment of one-way glass containers, where weight plays a decisive role. Echovai could promotes the switch to returnable bottles while allowing brands to keep their unique bottle characteristics.
The long-term goal is to develop a more user-friendly return and refill system, with 100% of bottles being reused.
Andreas Linder, Head of Marketing at Mohrenbrauerei sums up: “Its advantages are clear to see, and the potential is simply gigantic. So we’re proud that we played our part in this – and, who knows? It might soon be time to extend this approach to include the 0.5-litre bottles. Although nothing specific is planned as yet, in principle I see no reason why the success story shouldn’t continue in this direction.”
Vetropack Group is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of glass packaging for the food and beverage industry. Vetropack has state-of-the-art production facilities as well as sales and distribution offices in Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Italy, the Republic of Moldova and Romania. They enable people to enjoy food and beverages as safely as possible by providing solutions that combine optimum elegance with maximum responsibility. Guided by an understanding of environmental responsibility and cost efficiency, Vetropack aims to minimise their carbon footprint throughout the supply chain, and is committed to recycling as the key to optimising product life-cycles.Discover Echovai