Mr Amit Lahoti, Managing Director, Ball Beverage Packaging (India) Pvt Ltd

Ball Corporation is a global supplier of metal packaging. The company supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, personal care and household products. It is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with 2018 net sales of $11.6 billion. Founded in 1880 and headquartered in Broomfield, USA, Ball Corporation has manufacturing facilities in approximately 100 locations across the globe that employ around 17,500 people. In India, Ball Corporation has been operating since 2006. The company has made significant investments in the country and has three state-of-the-art facilities: Two beverage can facilities in Taloja, Maharashtra, and Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, and an aerosol packaging facility in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. In a face to face with Mandeep Kaur from Food Marketing and Technology Magazine, Mr Amit Lahoti, Managing Director, Ball Beverage Packaging (India) Pvt Ltd, elaborated the role of aluminium cans as the most sustainable packaging solution.

Can you explain a few things you are exhibiting on the issue of sustainability?

The Ball was founded in 1880 and sustainability has been core to our legacy of doing business for about 140 years. At Ball, we look at sustainability at three levels: 1) We start with what we can control – ensuring our ambitious sustainability targets and priorities are embedded in our operations and we also track the progress we make; 2) We aim to be the best stewards of our products throughout their life cycle; 3) We want to stay close to our customers and provide solutions to those issues our customers are facing by providing them with the product the consumer needs and wants.

Ball globally have made a commitment that by 2030, we will reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our business operations by 27 percent against a 2017 baseline. This equates to a 56 percent reduction of GHG emissions per million dollars of gross profit. Ball also strives to reduce value chain GHG emissions per can produced by 25 percent by 2030 from a 2017 base year. For more details please visit our sustainability report

Ball Corporation is a leading beverage can maker with production facilities all across the globe. Tell us about the products/services being offered by the company in India.

In India, Ball is headquartered in Bangalore and has been operating in the country since 2006. We manufacture infinitely recyclable beverage cans in India in different shapes and sizes. We anticipate consumer needs and align ourselves with our customers’ goals and markets. Based on our experience, knowledge and technical know-how, we are able to offer our customers various solutions, like light-weight packaging and print innovation technologies.

We can provide various product design and printing solutions, such as ‘matte finish’, ‘tactile’ or ‘glow in the dark’ effects. We are also actively working on product innovations and expanding into different product categories, like energy drinks, dairy, and flavoured alcoholic beverages.

Tell us about the key features of beverage cans

Beverage cans are valued for their convenience, portability and tamper-proof nature. Lightweight and durable, they are an ideal fit for an active lifestyle without the risk of accidental breakage. Beverage cans also offer a powerful barrier against light and oxygen, which can affect a drink’s flavour and freshness. Plus, beverage cans chill faster than other materials, so customers can cool and enjoy their drink quickly.

The packaging is also critical to delivering products safely, conveniently and in good condition, as it preserves and protects beverages as they move through supply chains. Being lightweight, the aluminium beverage can is an optimal solution. More cans fit into a smaller space and their light weight requires less cardboard packaging for transport. Thus, the can’s unique stacking ability and high cube efficiency makes transport and storage easy and efficient. In addition, a recent study by ICF International found that the combined greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the transportation and refrigeration of beverages cans are much lower than those associated with beverages in glass or plastic bottles under the same conditions.

How is metal (aluminium) compared with plastic and other packaging materials in terms of recyclability?

From a circular perspective, cans truly are the most sustainable package—economically and environmentally—relative to glass, plastic and other substrates. Cans are infinitely recyclable, as aluminium is a permanent material and maintains its inherent properties throughout the lifecycle. Also, product-to-product recycling is a reality, as cans are easily collected, sorted, and recycled. Among all packaging types, cans have by far the highest economic value in the recycling stream. The global recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans is ~70 percent and in India the recycle rate is ~91percent. In addition, 75 percent of aluminium ever produced is still in use today.

‘Recyclable’ alone is not enough anymore; the packaging has to be ‘recycled’. Share your views on this.

The world is full of biodegradable or recyclable materials but there is a cost associated with recycling the material. Thus, the economic benefits of recycling need to be understood, and we need to raise awareness about packaging materials that can be recycled in an economical way. Also, it needs to be understood whether a particular material can be recycled or can it be used in the same format again or not. There is a big difference between true recycling and mere collection.

Because aluminium in cans is one of the purest alloys, it is a very sought-after material and by far the most valuable material in the recycling stream. Cans are being recycled into other aluminium products like cars, bicycles or building materials. Plastic and glass have little economic value associated with recycling and cannot be recycled in the same form multiple times.

Tell us about Ball Corporation’s beverage packaging investments in India. What are the future expansion plans?

Ball has two high-speed state-of-art beverage can plants in India.

India’s per capita consumption of aluminium can is a tiny 1 against other developing countries, such as Brazil’s ~100, and China’s ~40. Hence, we see a lot of potential for growth in India.

We made a significant investment, and expanded our beverage packaging footprint by building our second beverage can plant in South India in 2017.

Ball continues to monitor the development of demand for beverage cans in the Indian market and will consider future investments as needed to service the growth.

Would you like to tell us about your major clients in India?

Our customers are both global and Indian beverage brand owners in multiple beverage categories including: beer and craft beer; carbonated soft drinks; juices; energy drink; and flavoured alcoholic beverages.

Which is the fastest growing segment of your company?

In India beer is a fast-growing category, and beverage cans as a package work very well with beer. To the beer consumer, the can provides a package which is tamper-proof and chills fast. Compared to other substrates, such as glass bottles, the aluminium can is the most suitable form of packaging for beer also because of its’ high production efficiency and modular transport and storage. Due to the can’s lightweight nature and stack ability, the CO2 emissions associated with shipping, storage and refrigeration of beer remain lower than those of heavy glass bottles. Also collecting, sorting and recycling aluminium cans is easy, and energy and water consumption related to it remains low. As a comparison, returnable beer glass bottles need huge amounts of energy and fresh water, as the bottles need to be collected and washed before filling.

Are you facing any kind of challenges in this domain and how are you overcoming those challenges?

The beverage can industry needs some help from the regulators and state governments to help this sustainable package grow. In India, the aluminium beverage can is still a relatively new form of packaging, and the awareness of its benefits amongst consumers and the value-chain players, such as retailers and distributors, is low. Since this truly circular packaging leads to a more sustainable town/city/state/country, we are encouraging official bodies at all levels to ensure that cans are treated at least equitably in terms of duties and levies on products that are packaged in them. For instances in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan, the tax on per litre of beer is higher if it is packed in cans compared to glass bottles. We are seeking an equitable treatment from an excise duty perspective with the respective state governments.

Moreover, in the short-term, a relative preference in duties for beverages packed in aluminium cans will accelerate their familiarity and amongst value chain and consumers and thereby accelerate the benefits it can provide. We would urge the authorities concerned at National and State levels to provide these benefits as soon as possible.

To drive home the benefits of aluminium beverage packaging, Ball has partnered with Hindalco Industries Ltd. and Can-Pack India Pvt. Ltd. to form the first-of-its-kind consortium – Aluminium Beverages Can Association of India (ABCAI). Through this association, we intend to build awareness about aluminium beverage packaging that will highlight innovation, performance, sustainability and economic value among our key stakeholders.

Tell us about future vision Ball Corporation

Our goal is to provide the Indian consumer, the most sustainable packaging available. We also want to help our customers, beverage companies have a quantum positive impact on the environment, businesses, consumers and society.

As stated above, the can penetration in India is very low i.e. one per capita for cans. The Aluminium Beverage Can Association of India (ABCAI) believes there is an opportunity to increase this to 8 per capita by 2030. ABCAI is also striving for 1 in 4 packages to be a can package over the same period.