• By: Tori McNeely

Coca-Cola Canada brings Innovation Lab to Ottawa

Photo credit: Dave Chan

With concerns of plastic pollution crisis on the rise, Coca-Cola is responding to the world’s packaging problem with industry leading solutions.

Earlier this week, Coca-Cola Canada held their first-ever Innovation Lab for Parliamentarians in our nation’s capital where they talked about Coke’s evolving recipes, leveraging the best technology and, most importantly, their plans to reduce waste.

We got the chance to meet Nancy Quan, Chief Technical Officer for Coca-Cola North America, who walked us through the Innovation Lab to see how the company is developing sustainable packaging, expanding their portfolio of products and much more!

In January, the company launched World Without Waste, an industry leading vision for packing which aims to help collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of the primary packaging it sells by 2030. Nancy refers to this as a one-for-one collection and recycling system.

“As we sell products, we want to make sure that the packaging is being used in the right way and that we are always concerned about the impact of the end use so that it’s not impacting communities or environments in the wrong way,” says Quan. “Collecting every bottle or can that is out there and bringing it back is important because we believe there is real value beyond its initial use.”

Coca-Cola also has a global goal of reducing the carbon footprint of “the drink in your hand” by 25% by 2020. This goal will be met through the company’s effort in creating smaller portion sizes and more sustainable packaging. In 2017, through inline blow moulding and packaging optimization projects, Coca-Cola has reduced its carbon footprint by 9,236 MT C02e, the equivalent of 1,978 passenger cars driven for one year.

The company’s Plant Bottle was just one of many sustainable packaging solutions on display at the Innovation Lab. First introduced in 2009, this bottle is made from 30% plant based material instead of fossil fuel to help reduce the carbon footprint.

“We’ve been around for 132 years and we need to make sure that we’re going with the consumer. As the consumer evolves, it’s really important for us to understand what they’re looking for and what beliefs they have. That’s why for us transparency and doing what’s right for the environment is really critical. We’ve always been connected with communities as it is an important value within the Coca-Cola system.”

In addition to a plethora of sustainable packaging, the Innovation Lab also showcased the wide breadth of Coca-Cola products!

“While Coke remains at the heart of the company, the brand is truly evolving to represent an all-beverage company,” says Quan. “You don’t stay around for 132 years without understanding what the consumer needs are. We’re really trying to stay focused on offering what we think the consumers want.”

This includes an array of beverages from flavoured waters, juices, teas, sodas and fairlife Ultrafiltered Milk. fairlife is a lactose free milk containing nine essential nutrients with 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular milk.

Coca-Cola worked closely with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to launch fairlife in Canada this Fall. They also announced an 85 million dollar investment to build a new production facility in Peterborough, Ontario, to produce fairlife products. Nancy estimates the facility to be up and running by the first quarter of 2020.

Nancy also responded to the rumors of a cannabis beverage being the next stage in the Coke-Pepsi rivalry when she says, “We are not interested in cannabis at all, but with the rest of the industry we’re watching the trends.”

Coca-Cola’s thoughtful R&D coupled with their innovative commercialized solutions indicate that the beverage company is taking responsibility for the packaging they produce and working towards reducing plastic pollution.