Integral action: the route to revitalize glass in Latam


Supply of raw materials, innovation in design and composition, agility in production and cost improvement, are the challenges facing the glass industry to stay on the upswing.

In 2020, globally, the glass bottles and containers market had a production of 630,520 million units. By 2027, a growth of 4.4% is expected to reach 883,520 million units, according to projections by the international consulting firm Mordor Intelligence.

Glass packaging is a highly innovative sector with a dynamism that constantly adapts to the challenges imposed by the market and the final consumer. “Consumers are setting the tone, because they are becoming more analytical and informed about the products they purchase,” says Hiram Cruz, former general director of the Mexican Association of Packaging and Packaging (AMEE) and now director of the portal El Mundo del Envases.

In the first half of 2022, in a post-pandemic period, the commercialization of glass containers in Latin America has begun to recover ground despite the shortage of raw materials, the increase in the price of finished products from China, and the economic-political situation of countries such as Argentina and Mexico, which overcome issues of inflation, taxes and restrictions on production.

Despite these challenges, the safety, resistance and safety of glass containers – among many other characteristics – will continue to captivate the most demanding markets and open up new opportunities for the packaging and consumption of products in glass presentation, with new developments and composition of raw materials.

Solving the technical aspects to differentiate the different bottles or containers, as well as finding the best way for their production and acquisition, are the commercial challenges that require innovative solutions, in every sense.

High performance vs. high demand

According to data from the AMEE, an organization endorsed by the World Packaging Organization (WPO), 50% of the total consumption of glass containers in the world corresponds to the food and beverage segment. Of that figure, 30% are food and 20% beverages; the other half of the demand is divided into 15% personal care, 15% household products, and 10% pharmaceutical products.

Although each material has strengths and particularities, glass is distinguished by its attractive presentation, transparency, crystallinity and the advantage of safety. “If you see some fruits in syrup in a glass container, you immediately sense that the product is of quality, because the glass has a touch of elegance that allows it to be identified with premium products,” says Hiram Cruz.

The largest economies in the production of glass containers in Latin America are Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Currently, glass production in Mexico is not enough to cover the local demand of beverage, food, perfume and pharmaceutical manufacturers who are facing global shortages and the increase in the price of bottles and containers.

Alejandro Chairez, Mexican businessman, founder of Logística y Proyectos de Baja California, a marketer of products such as vegetables and packaging for food and beverage production companies, considers it necessary to increase the production of glass bottles to meet demand. “Many of the vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe ask for non-standardized bottles, so since 2021 we have been buying glass in Chile and Argentina, although this has made the price more expensive,” says the entrepreneur.

The beverage segment presents great opportunities for the region with the global leadership of Chile and Argentina in wine production and export, followed by Mexico with the production of tequila, mezcal and soft drinks, in addition to a new craft beer market that is growing at a rate of 53% per year, according to the Mexican association of craft beer (Acermex). For this reason, there is a great opportunity in the recycling of glass, despite the complexity of the process. “We must be encouraged to grow production, not just to distribute. There is a lot of market for wine and food, and reuse is a good option”” says Alejandro Chairez.

The report Mexico Glass packaging market: growth, trends. Forecasts 2022-2027 of the International Wine Spirits Research indicates that acquisitions and alliances with foreign companies will boost the brewing sector and facilitate the establishment of stricter standards for sustainable production. Consequently, a reduction in costs per volume is expected that will impact throughout Latin America and boost the demand for glass bottles in the next five years.

Another of the great challenges of the sector is the precarious valorization of glass, which is calculated at an average of 15 cents per kilogram. “The problem with recycling is the logistics it requires. A lot of people have returned to glass, but the weight impacts and reduces the amount of volume they can move,” says Chairez.

In addition to beverages, personal care products packaged in glass had significant growth from 2020 to date. “There is a lot of innovation in perfumery and cosmetics packaging, which must be protected from basic security for product leakage to counterfeiting”” says Hiram Cruz.

Comprehensive actions to revitalize the sector

Beyond innovative design, the future of glass packaging lies in achieving comprehensive actions. “The trend is in the integration between packaging and packaging”” says Cruz. In Mexico, he explains, there has been a boom in mezcal production in recent years, which has allowed producers to innovate in industrial design. In this sense, the versatility of glass favors packaging in standard bottles and allows solutions with different finishes, colors, prints or labels.

“In Mexico, two decades ago there were big monopolies and today the industry is pulverizing. There are more and more small glass packaging production plants that generate a greater supply and motivate a cost reduction to streamline the chain,” says Cruz. In this way, the production and marketing of glass containers will become increasingly integral if a focus is maintained on what the customer requires. The objective – says the expert – is to achieve a favorable supply at an appropriate price, optimize materials and generic bottles to achieve lighter and more resistant packaging, which from a logistical point of view could represent economic savings.

Another aspect of the innovation is related to the recyclability of glass. In this line, the AMEE awarded three Stellar Packaging 2022 awards to Vitro, one of the most important stained glass shops in the world, for the packaging of Jafra’s You Bloom perfume, made with recycled glass (PCR) and the integration of a packaging with lid and box made of biodegradable materials.

Challenges and opportunities for a circular economy

In Mexico, and in Latin America in general, less than 15% of glass is recycled, compared to PET which is already at rates of 60%. Motivated by this situation, José Luis Pérez created Closing the Cycle in 2013, a project specialized in the transformation of glass waste that operates a social enterprise and a civil organization that works with institutions such as Walmart Foundation, among others. Before becoming an entrepreneur, José Luis worked at one of the largest breweries in Mexico, where he noticed that glass was a low-value material despite being 100% recyclable.

“The trend is to reduce the raw material, because it is easier to recycle glass made of 50% raw material and 50% recycled glass,” says the founder of Closing the Cycle. A success story that has inspired the comprehensive actions of his project is Spain, which has a record glass recovery of 76% and a comprehensive collaboration model for the collection of bottles and awareness for collection, transport, crushing and reuse. The challenge, he says, is the sum of factors, government, private initiative and society, and in this sense Chile is on the right track.

“It’s time to improve the value chain with initiatives and alliances that improve the life cycle of products,” says José Luis Pérez. Regarding the recovery of waste, he highlights that the lack of a recycling culture influences the cost of waste to be low in Latin America compared to European countries where glass already demonstrates advantages in the circular economy, where the concept of reuse is more advanced.

Sector data

The global glass industry has doubled its value from 2008 to date, and is expected to reach a value of $140 billion by 2023, according to data from the international consulting firm Statista.
The consulting firm International WineSpiritsResearch (IWSP) sees growth opportunity in luxury or premium quality beverages by 2027.
80% of the innovation and packaging design in the world takes place in the food and beverage sector, according to data from the AMEE.