Coca-Cola Invests in Future 100 Percent PlantBottle

Coca-Cola Co. announced on Dec. 15 multi-million dollar partnership agreements with three biotechnology companies to accelerate development of what will be a bottle made entirely of plant-based materials. Coke’s current PlantBottle is only 30 percent from plants.

Virent, Gevo and Avantium are the independent biotech companies contracted to bring out the next-generation PlantBottle. Coca-Cola called them “industry leaders in developing plant-based alternatives to materials traditionally made from fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources.”

No firm word on when the bottles could start rolling, although one of the companies targets “early 2015 for the opening of its first full-scale commercial plant.”

Their selection followed two years of analysis of different technologies by Coca-Cola’s R&D team and a technical advisory board.

"While the technology to make bio-based materials in a lab has been available for years, we believe Virent, Gevo and Avantium are companies that possess technologies that have high potential for creating them on a global commercial scale within the next few years," said Rick Frazier, Coke’s vice president of commercial product supply. "This is a significant R&D investment in packaging innovation and is the next step toward our vision of creating all of our plastic packaging from responsibly sourced plant-based materials."

While Virent, Gevo and Avantium will follow their own routes to make bio-based materials, all materials will be developed in line with Coca-Cola and industry recycling requirements.

Virent CEO Lee Edwards said, "Our patented technology features catalytic chemistry to convert plant-based sugars into a full range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including bio-based paraxylene -- a key component needed to deliver 100 percent plant-based PET packaging." The resulting PET would have the same high quality and recyclability as materials used today. The company is targeting early 2015 for the opening of its first full-scale commercial plant.

Virent's (www.virent.com) BioForming technology platform is supported through strategic investors including Cargill, Shell and Honda, as well as 120 employees based in Madison, Wis.

Gevo’s (www.gevo.com) CEO Patrick Gruber used the phrase, “paraxylene from bio-based isobutanol." Gevo is headquartered in Englewood, Colo.

Avantium (www.avantium.com) CEO Tom van Aken called him firm’s route "YXY technology [which] produces bio-based PEF [polyethylene-furanoate] bottles.” The firm is based in Amsterdam.

Coke’s current PlantBottle claims to be the only fully recyclable PET bottle made with up to 30 percent plant-based material available today. It has two components: MEG (mono-ethylene glycol), which makes up 30 percent of the PET, and is already made from plant materials, and PTA (purified terephthalic acid), which makes up the other 70 percent. In this next step, PTA will be replaced with plant-based materials, too.

Since being introduced in 2009, more than 10 billion PlantBottles have been used in 20 countries worldwide. And H.J. Heinz Co. is converting all its 20-oz. ketchup bottles to the PlantBottle.

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