I know, it is in Africa and parts of Asia no different, but in Central and South America, where the iconic Coca-Cola single serve glass bottle is very much in use and very popular, it is custom that when you buy a Coca-Cola (or any other brand or flavour for that matter, as long it is bottled in a single-serve glass bottle) at a street stall or a kiosk or from a vendor at the beaches and you haven’t an empty bottle to trade-in, the soft drink is poured into a plastic bag and you walk away with a bag with a drinking straw, leaving the empty glass bottle with the vendor.
Note: It is the same when it is a home-made regional drink, often sweet and made from fruit and water, but then there never has been a glass bottle in the first place. But it is sold in plastic bags with a drinking straw.
A strange custom? Not at all, as it is very effective. The vendor of soft drinks has to secure his glass bottle against all odds. Charging a refund (whatever the value) doesn’t help him, as the distributor of soft drinks wants to see empty bottles. He will replenish the vendor’s stock only in relation to the number of empty bottles he trades-in. No empty bottles means: no replenishment with full bottles. An eye for an eye is translated into one empty for one full.
With this system in place the bottler always has the guarantee that his bottles are coming back for a refill, and rather clean at that, as the consumer doesn’t have the chance to urinate into the bottle or use it for the storage of chemicals.
Of course you could ask yourself, why not the single-serve PET (or HDPE) bottle or the aluminium can? Well, there are several reasons. The first is the famous myth about the taste.
“Why does coke from a glass bottle taste different? It doesn’t. That’s what Coca-Cola’s spokespeople say, anyway. “The great taste of Coca-Cola is the same regardless of the package it comes in”, they insist. Nevertheless 99% of the time every one prefers the glass bottles over all the other types of coke packages.
But it is not only for the taste, but Coca-Cola in a glass bottle is the cheapest option, as the consumer doesn’t pay for the costs of the plastic bottle or the alu-can. But it creates the “bottle-problem”. Street vendors, street stalls and kiosks all over the world found the solution for the glass bottle, which they couldn’t let taken away by the consumer. They introduced the plastic bag, and unanimously and without question, the moment you buy a bottle of soft drink, they pour the soft drink into a plastic bag stick a straw in and hand it over to you.
However for world famous brands with iconic packages this market format is quite a problem. Imagine, the moment the soft drink is dumped into a simple plastic bag, while the iconic bottle stays with the vendor, nobody knows that you drink a genuine Coca-Cola. It can be any fancy brand. For brands as Coca-Cola that’s quite a frustration.
Consequently some clever chap at Coca-Cola in El Salvador found the most brilliant answer I have ever seen. Apparently he understands his consumers (wherever they live) and is keen to emphasize the values transmitted by the brand. To adapt the product to this market reality, he initiated a campaign offering plastic bags in the form of the iconic glass bottle, even with its logo. See the video.
In other words, Coca-Cola is now supplying the vendors in street stalls, kiosks and all other places a plastic bag in the format of the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle. It is said that “The Coca-Cola Bag”, is made of bio-degradable plastic.
Brilliant, simply brilliant.
I know it has little to do with packaging technology, but this type of developments is as important as the most complicated discovery of a plastic substitute.
Rest me to say: Who is the first to copy this idea? Here in the north of Brazil even beer (which comes in 0.6 litre glass bottles) is dropped into one or two plastic bags with drinking straws if you haven’t an empty bottle to trade-in. Ever drank beer through a straw? Personally I don’t like it, but here it is quite common practice. So, tell me, one of the beer giants (all AmBev here) gets an inspiration? Coca-Cola hasn’t introduced it here yet. So there is some room to say that you are “innovative”.