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New Delhi: After shifting its focus to healthier products, PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd has turned to a healthier option in packaging.

The local arm of American food and beverages company PepsiCo Inc. has introduced non-returnable glass bottle with a twist-and-turn cap for Pepsi Black, a zero-calorie carbonated beverage.

This is first time a carbonated beverage maker is selling cola in glass bottles that consumers do not need to return at the point of sale. Besides, the bottles can be re-used at home. So far, Pepsi Black was available in cans and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

Other carbonated beverages sold by PepsiCo are available in returnable glass bottles – a form of packaging that has been getting replaced by PET fast. In the past four years, according to PepsiCo’s internal estimates, glass bottles dropped to around 19% of total carbonated beverages packaging from around 46%. Companies have even brought single-serve PET bottles (250 ml and 300 ml) to eventually replace returnable glass bottles.

“Consumers are moving away from returnable glass bottles fast because of a bunch of reasons. There are hygiene issues (because of tip cap) and consumers’ mindset is changing. Also, retailers are not happy with consumers blocking space in front of the store until they finish their drinks just to return the glass bottles. Besides, the cost of logistics is high," said a top executive at a cola company, on condition of anonymity.

Non-returnable glass bottles come with a lot of advantages. “Cola is best enjoyed chilled and from a glass bottle. Non-returnable glass bottles also make on-the-go consumption possible. And these bottles can be re-used at home. This is an experience driven packaging disruption," said Raj Rishi Singh, director (marketing for Pepsi), PepsiCo India.

The company will initially sell Pepsi Black in non-returnable glass bottles in metro cities, and will extend the reach to other towns. PepsiCo, however, did not change the price while the cost of packaging is higher for non-returnable glass bottles. Like 250-ml cans, the 250-ml non-returnable glass bottles are available at Rs25.

The company, however, will not drastically move to the new form of packaging. It will initially be restricted to niche products like Pepsi Black. “We are not extending this right now," added Singh.

Pepsi Black is not the only product that comes with non-returnable glass bottles. The company is also selling the sparkling version of Himalayan, a water brand owned by NourishCo Beverages Ltd in ‘well-designed glass bottles’ that was earlier sold on PET. NourishCo Beverages is a joint venture between Tata Global Beverages Ltd and PepsiCo.

PepsiCo’s rival Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd, the local unit of American beverages maker Coca-Cola Co., however, is yet to bring non-returnable glass bottles to India. The Atlanta-based beverage maker has non-returnable take-home glass bottles in markets like the US and Maldives for different products.

“It’s not much of commercial sense. This packaging, however, may be used as a promotional tool. The concept may make commercial sense only for premium products but not for the mass market ones," said a Mumbai-based consultant currently working with one of the top global consulting firms, asking not to be named.

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