Four years ago, a  team was formed in Australia to tackle a unique challenge. Design a new Powerade bottle that’s easier to squeeze, cheaper to produce, and better for the environment. 

Consumers wanted a more squeezable bottle with a high-flow sipper cap, and that’s what they got.

The team’s work also paid off for Coca-Cola, picking up three awards at the Australian Packaging Design Awards: the Gold Innovation award, Gold Sustainability award, and overall Best in Show. It followed the WorldStar Award given by the World Packaging Organisation.

Jeremie Bohen, Innovation and Commercialisation Manager at Coca-Cola, said the wins were the result of best in class design, improved consumer’s experience, lower manufacturing costs, and reduced environmental impact.

One of the eco-friendly features was removing a small piece of foil that sealed the bottle. It was both unpopular with consumers and a litter item. The bottle also has the lowest weight in its category.

“Locally our competitors will still be at the weight we were before, which is 33 grams,” said Jeremie. “We’re  27 per cent lighter.”

Removing weight also helped make the bottle more flexible, which combined with the design and reapplication of the European sport closure delivers an improved flow and consumer experience

“Previously with the other filling process we were quite constrained on the design,” Jeremie said. “Now with this new filling process, we’ve got great freedom with the design so we could really focus on having that grip and delivering on the nice, easy, squeezeable bottle.”

How the bottle was built

The cross-functional team, from engineering to marketing, wanted to avoid the limitations of conventional bottle manufacturing.

One technique known as aseptic, fills and caps each bottle in a sterile environment. But it requires a high capital investment and high operating costs. Another is called hot-fill, where the bottle is filled with hot product that in turn sterilises the bottle and closure. However, this technique can result in important design constraints.

Instead, the team defined a manufacturing process called warm-fill that combines filling the bottle with warm product and dosing with liquid nitrogen. This creates an initial pressure, offsetting the product displacement that occurs when the product cools down.

The warm-fill technique also allows for weight reduction and uses less energy for manufacturing and filling. The PET material is comprised of the same resin used in Coca-Cola water and sparkling water products, helping to create efficiencies in the company’s supply chain.

Testing the early prototypes was difficult because it was challenging to precisely inject the drop of nitrogen before the bottle was capped in a lab environment.

“The biggest challenge was to sign off the performance of the bottle and the closure with the new filling process without having a large scale production line to validate everything, whilst making a multi million investment on new production lines” he said.

The product did pass all the validation tests and is now successfully produced on two production lines and well received by the customers and consumers.