Yep, we know PET bottles come with environmental baggage – and with the Eco Fair in Tokyo last week we had hoped to see some alternatives… but we can’t ignore the alluring, curvy shapes that Japanese manufacturers keep coming up with. There are around 13,000 new products thrown onto the shelves of konbini and supermarkets every year – so designers are really pumping out the goods! PingMag presents some of the cleverest PET bottle designs and tells what they reveal about consumers!
Written by Bianca Beuttel
First, a word about ecological matters. A huge amount of PET resin is used for these bottles in Japan: in 2006, 515,414 tons were utilised just for soft drink packaging! When the Council for PET Bottle Recycling was founded in 1993, they recorded that only 0.4 percent of PET bottles was recycled. Since then the figure has increased to 65.6 percent (2005 figure).
And the rest? Dumped, burnt or sold abroad… but surely some people could be charmed by all these amazing new PET bottle shapes, and keep them to re-use them.
1. Express Yourself Or Impress Others With Your (PET Bottle) Style
That heading sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s a real slogan used by the PET bottle industry. You might be already familiar with the ‘simply design’ beverage series from our excursion into Japanese product poetry. This is polarising, no doubt; but it clearly shows that beverages, as well as chewing gum and snacks, are an accessory – like fashion items, mobile phones or iPods. Now, what does this tea bottle and its shape tell us about its consumers, their personality and attitude? Encased in a striking sleeve of saturated primary colour, there is no decoration other than a little text in a tiny font… Must be a minimalist! Well it worked on us…
2. Floral Notes
In an age of product pluralism, so many styles have to continuously compete against each other. Take, for example, this fashionable, cute floral design of Suntory Jasmine Tea: Although the graphic design of the product above was varied, its characteristics remained. It is a delicate integration of the Jasmine tea colour with white flower patterns on the bottle that conveys the beverage’s aroma.
3. The Liberation Of Conventional Shapes
Look at the ‘Afternoon Black Tea’ example on the left: PET bottles often have a quite prosaic appearance with typical ribs for bracing the bottle against deformations that could occur during manufacturing processes. It is then left to the graphic design on the sleeve to compensate and create a pleasant mood.
However, as illustrated by the special editions of ‘Afternoon Black Tea’ (gogo no ko-cha), fresher shapes are on the rise.
4. Surfaces I: Exquisite Crystal
When the ‘Crystal cut’-bottle of Suntory’s Oolong Tea was launched in 2005, its commercials tried to link the drink with images of cut crystal glasses. For your tea indulgence!
5. Surfaces II: Sparks of Imagination
6. The Value Of Brand Recognition: Bamboo I
In Japan, the bamboo stem used to be the traditional container for beverages. Suntory has applied this image to its ‘Lemon Green Tea’ series so successfully that new products in the range are easily recognised.
7. Identities: Bamboo II
Launched in April 2006, the bamboo grass-flavoured Green Tea (sasa to o-cha) disappeared from the market – but its bottle has returned – holding an isotonic drink! Since buying decisions for soft drinks are made instantly, there is nothing more important than an eye-catching and immediately comprehensible product. The message of the bamboo grass-flavoured Green Tea was clear, but what are the Z7’s scientific and dynamic-looking graphics on the bamboo trying to tell us?
8. Voluptuous Curves
Another traditional container was the bottles gourd, especially for on the road. The ‘Water from the bottle gourd’ (hyotan kara mizu) brand adopts this custom in a contemporary plastic shape: It comes with a carrying strap, taking nature’s patterns to a new abstract level with its sleeves.
9. It Comes Handy
This blended tea with herbs is called ‘Refreshing Health and Beauty Tea’ (soken-bi-cha.) And how practical that its slender waist makes this ‘Fit-bottle’ easy to grip; it seems to also serve as inspiration to women! In a survey by Nikkei Design magazine (issue July 2006, page 70 to 71,) the bottle’s appearance was described as suggesting health benefits. How appropriate for its contents.
10. Slim Lines
The ‘Slim-bottle’ debuted with a special edition of the ‘Love Body’ series to support diet. Well, when viewed from different angles the bottle reminds us of those Before and After pictures you see in campaigns about weight loss products. But basically the bottle is designed to efficiently use the space in your bag. That function was instantly apparent to 90 percent of the participants of yet another consumer survey by Nikkei Design magazine. Interestingly, 57.3 percent of the participants would choose this slim bottle instead of an ordinary one, assuming that both cost the same. We are sure that you’d all want to look as slim as this bottle!
11. Less Is More – Meaning, Less Content At Higher Prices
Less is more, and we all know the strategy of keeping something rare which adds to its ‘premium quality.’ Only, if you experience this concept on a Combini shelf, you find yourself with less content at a higher price. The sales motto would be: Charge ¥180 for 350ml of ‘I-Tea’ instead of ¥140 for 500ml of common ‘Afternoon Black Tea’ (both ‘manufacturer’s suggested retail price’ without tax) to upgrade a simple green tea to a classy product. We aren’t sure if you will find yourself savouring a simple PET bottle drink…
12. Shapes Adjusted to Sparkling…
In Japan, ‘Fanta’ comes in the oddly-shaped ‘Bubble-bottle’, which is an example of Universal Design according to Coca Cola. The bottle aims to be comfortable to grip, but also screams “I’m bursting at the seams!”
Looking at such a bottle, you might notice that its material is much thicker than those of non-carbonated beverages. How come? To save resources and energy, engineers have thinned these PET bottles to the minimum. But due to the pressure of carbonic acid gas, they have to remain sturdy.
…Or Hot Contents
Also, there are other bottles adjusted to their contents. In the winter months, these smaller bottles are a welcome sight.
They are crafted from a material known as ‘Hot PET’, which consists of two oxygen-absorbing layers sandwiched between three PET layers. This is necessary since regular PET allows oxygen through. More details here.
It’s All About The Details
‘Hand’ is a good transition to ‘handiness,’ or once again Universal Design as expressed by Coca Cola.
Most of the manufacturers just print their logo on the cap; however, as seen in the example of the orange caps above which indicate the hot beverages, it can be a valuable detail to convey practical functions as well as brand messages.
Detail of the perforated bottle sleeve – to make separating the trash easier.
To get back to the environmental issue, most of the sleeves are made from materials other than PET and thus need to be removed for recycling. This is why all sleeves have a perforation. Please also note this additional improvement for glass bottle labels.
We are sure you enjoyed all these amazing, wonderful PET bottle shapes we find all over Japan! Did you come across any interesting forms recently in your country – if so, let us know, please!