In recent years, many leading companies have started to vocally promote and publish their sustainability goals and efforts, starting with Google and Apple and expanding across various industries including automotive, technology and food sectors. The beverage industry is no exception.

Substantiality as a concept has become increasingly popular with consumers from Central & South America. GlobalData’s consumer surveys report that 82%*1 of consumers are influenced by whether a product is environmentally friendly while 45%*2 highlighted the environmentally-friendly packaging as essential when considering their purchase. Awareness and transparency are also key considerations for many people, with 39%*3 of consumers wanting news about a brand’s sustainability initiatives even after the Covid-19 pandemic period, which is driving some exciting changes on the streets of Brazil.

Multinational drink and brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) set ambitious goals for itself back in March 2018 that are outlined in its ‘2025 Sustainability Goals’ (1). In four main areas of focus, Smart Agriculture, Water Stewardship, Circular Packaging and Climate Action, the multinational brewing and drinks company has turned to small, start-up companies. Through a global six-month-long incubator programme, 100+ Accelerator, AB InBev is calling for companies to develop innovative solutions to these sustainability-focused challenges, moving the sustainability actions to the local communities.

One of the start-ups selected to participate in the 2018 edition of the 100+ Accelerator, Green Mining, can be found on the streets of Sao Paulo (Brazil) where its collectors are intercepting and retrieving post-consumer packaging to ensure the waste is sent to the recycling stations and stop it from getting into landfills. So far, Green Mining has collected more than 2,100 tonnes of packaging material, mainly glass bottles, and is estimated to have avoided 350 tonnes of additional carbon dioxide (CO₂) emission.

Another innovation in Sao Paulo, that was scaled in the 100+ Accelerator and is set to be presented to the beer market this October, are biodegradable multi-can rings often used in the beer industry.  Bio-rings are the pilot project from growPack, a start-up focused on regenerative technology that enables the development of packaging solutions made from organic compounds, mainly corn husk.  The production of growPack packaging is estimated to consume 80% less water than cardboard packaging, to reduce CO₂ emissions by 50% and to save 25% of electricity.

Besides actively participating in the circular economy, both start-ups are also addressing big economic issues by formalising work for people with few job opportunities and reducing the influx of post-consumer packaging to the many open landfills in Brazil.

Over the last two years, the 100+ Accelerator program has accelerated 36 companies in 16 countries. Earlier this year in April, The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever joined AB InBev in the initiative and are looking to drive the sustainable innovations further and address sustainability issues alongside communities that are affected by these issues the most.

*1 GlobalData 2021 Q1 Consumer Survey – Central and South America- Combined responses: “‘Always’, ‘Often’, ‘Somewhat’ influences my product choice”

*2 GlobalData 2021 Q1 Consumer Survey – Central and South America – Responses for ‘Essential / key driver of purchase’

*3 GlobalData 2021 Q1 Consumer Survey – Central and South America- Responses for ‘News about the brand’s sustainability initiatives’

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