Poland focus: Strength in cans
With CanTech The Grand Tour due to take place in Poland this March, here is an insight into can manufacturing in the country
By William Tomaney, in Warsaw; Poorna Rodrigo; and Keith Nuthall
The Polish can manufacturing and filling industry continues to attract attention from major buyers and investors from around the world, aware that this strong and innovating national sector is able to rely on a strong, reliable workforce.
Global beverage giant PepsiCo, for example, has been drawn to the Polish can manufacturing industry. In September 2020, PepsiCo opened a new line producing canned beverages at its plant in Michrów, near Warsaw. It produces carbonated and non-carbonated drinks of brands such as Pepsi, Mirinda, 7Up, Lipton, and Rockstar, delivering up to 90,000 cans of drinks per hour (which is up to two million cans a day). The installation uses a variety of energy-saving solutions, ensuring compliance with PepsiCo’s sustainability goals.
Senior manufacturing plant manager for beverages, at PepsiCo Poland, Bartłomiej Malczyk, said in comments sent to CanTech International: “The newest line in Michrów is a modern and fully automatic installation…and all devices are energy-efficient…”
Sustainability initiatives included installing solar panels that support the new line’s power supply along with operational tech enabling managers to reconfigure production for a new product in less than an hour, while the standard time is up to several hours. “The new production line enables the production of beverages in all capacities and shapes from 0.15ml [millilitres] to 0.5 litres,” said Malczyk.
Alcoholic beverages account for the largest volume share in Poland’s canned food and beverage market while hot drinks make up the smallest share, according to UK-based market researcher GlobalData. And while Poland sales of canned alcoholic beverages declined from 1.71 billion litres in 2015 to 1.29 billion litres in 2020, at an annual growth rate of -5.5 per cent, “largely on the back of on-trade closures and pandemic restrictions which devastated alcohol sales,” said a spokesperson from GlobalData, “can formats are however a popular choice in retail, which will have provided many brands a lifeline during lockdowns.”
Moreover, the market researcher predicts sales of canned alcoholic drinks in Poland, whose population is 38 million, are set to rebound, with a forecast average annual growth rate of 9.1 per cent over 2020-2025 to reach two billion litres-a-year.
Poland’s canned soft drinks sector is growing even more strongly, posting an annual gain of 6.7 per cent during 2015-2020 from 270.2 million litres to 373.6 million litres in 2020, owing to strong performance prior to the pandemic which offset on-trade declines. And this sub sector is forecast to reach 468 million litres in Poland sales by 2025, said GlobalData.
In 2020, the volume of cans used in Poland’s food sector stood at 334.79 million kilos, according to GlobalData. It has registered a steady growth since 2015 with a gain of 3.8 per cent between 2015-2020. And the sector is forecast to grow well into 2025 at a slightly lower annual rate of 3.6 per cent with the market volume expected to reach 399.72 million kilos by then, according to GlobalData.
The industry’s continued strength could also be helped by the growth of canned craft beer sales. Although these niche offerings have been sold in cans for years, this was not the case in Poland until recently – something industry insiders are describing as a “beer revolution.” Polish consumers are turning more and more to aluminium packaging – discovering a wider offer of brewers, including craft breweries which frequently choose lighter metal packaging materials over traditional glass bottles.
There is still some way to go however, glass is still the most popular choice for beer consumers in Poland, with estimates published in Polish business publication Fakt suggesting 52 per cent of packaged beer purchased in Poland is sold in glass. But aluminium cans are closing in, with 44 per cent of sales. In fact, Jacek Wodzisławski, president of Fundacji na rzecz Odzysku Opakowań Aluminiowych (RECAL – Foundation for the Recovery of Aluminium Packaging), described 2020 as “the year of the can, both in terms of regional and craft breweries.” As reported by Polish business news publication Wirtualny Nowy Przemysł (WNP), Mr Wodzisławski said: “We can see that more and more high-quality beers are released to the market in cans.”
Marek Skrętny, marketing and development director of the Amber Brewery, Bielkówka in Pomerania, northern Poland, told WNP: “This upward trend, which has been going on for some time, is so visible that our next market premiere is canned beer.
“Other breweries are also heading in this direction – it’s an interesting part of the beer revolution,” he added.
Amber was not the only brewery reporting double-digit sales increases last year, taking advantage of increased home-drinking during Covid-19, others, such as the Nepomucen and Pinta breweries, in Szkaradowo and Wieprz respectively, have invested in can filling lines.
Indeed, some craft beer consumers want “to pay a few zlotys more for a beer just because it is in a can,” said Ziemowit Fałat, co-founder of the Pinta Brewery.
Another benefit of this growing metal packaging segment is that the aluminium beverage can is currently the most recycled packaging waste in Poland, thanks largely to a nationwide network of easy-to-access and easy-to-use collection points and scrap firms buying beverage cans from consumers. Recycling pressure group Every Can Counts has described the achievement as a great result. “The aluminium industry’s involvement in the recycling process has also significantly contributed to this. Put simply, domestic can makers in cooperation with aluminium suppliers are successfully closing the recycling loop.”
According to the group, the latest figures it has (from 2018), show that the aluminium drink can recycling rate was more than 80.5 per cent in Poland during that year, much higher than the European Union average of 51 per cent.
Aluminium is not the only metal packaging material with recycling strength in Poland. European steel packaging association APEAL pulls together data each year from different sources, such as European Union (EU) statistical agency Eurostat and UK-based consultancy Eunomia, which shows Poland steel recycling rates have been steadily climbing. For example, it rose from 21 per cent in 2008 to 49 per cent in 2013 to 75.5 per cent in 2019 (the latest figures available) – a figure that is catching up with the EU average for 2019 of 84 per cent. “That’s a good figure,” noted APEAL’s spokesperson Patricia Mobbs.
That focus on the environment is especially being pushed by one being led by Canpack, a multinational that is based in Kraków (owned by USA-based Giorgi Global Holdings Inc), which has grown into a global player since it was launched in 1992, just after the fall of communism in that country.
It introduced a sustainable development policy in 2019 and was this year awarded new magazine Polityka’s White CSR Leaf accolade, for its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.
Its first production line was launched in Brzesko, also in southern Poland, in 1994.
Since then, the company has expanded in Poland and around the world. Its earnings before tax, deductions and depreciation (EBITDA) were $445 million in 2020, compared to $365 million in 2019 (+22 per cent). The growth was driven by higher volumes in beverage cans, improved productivity in greenfield sites in Colombia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, and tight cost controls. The company made 6.1 billion cans in 2020, from plants in Brzesko, Bydgoszcz (northern Poland), Ukraine, Romania, Britain, India, Morocco, Finland, Brazil, Russia, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Colombia, the Czech Republic, and the USA. It also makes metal closures in Tarnów in southeast Poland, and in Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and France. And it makes food and industrial cans in Brzesko and Dębica, also in southeast Poland.
Canpack announced sustainability targets in January (2021), focusing on its aluminium cans production, setting 2025 targets against a 2019 baseline in electricity consumption (-7 per cent), thermal energy consumption (-6 per cent), water consumption (-13 per cent), waste generation (-5 per cent) and waste recycling (+94 per cent).
It is also innovating. For example, working with brewer Kompania Piwowarska to produce 64 different can designs, each with the Tyskie name replaced by a popular Polish first name – allowing consumers to personalise their choices. Canpack achieved this flexibility by using its Quadromix printing technology, which enables the printing of multiple different graphic designs on cans in one production run.
Recent expansions including Canpack’s 2020 acquisition of industrial property in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, for its current building of a state-of-the-art aluminium beverage can body and ends manufacturing plant, with R&D and lithographic capabilities. Canpack is also to establish a 62,000-square-foot, manufacturing plant in Muncie, Indiana, USA, by December 2023.
Canpack has blazed a trail in impressive innovation that can be found across the Polish can manufacturing and filling sector. Can producer and beverage bottler Bagpak, for instance, is promoting its two-piece tinplate beverage cans made using a draw and wall ironing (DWI) process. It is one of a small number of beverage can plants in Europe to offer this solution. Its plant, based in the south-eastern Poland city of Stalowa Wola, has capacity for about 600 million beverage cans per year. Bagpak offers finishes in gloss, soft-touch lacquers, matt lacquers, tactile varnishes and thermo-ink.
Buyers and investors wanting to find out more about Poland’s ground-breaking metal packaging sector might do well to attend CanTech International’s The Grand Tour 2022 expo in Poland’s capital Warsaw, from 14-16 March, a major exhibition for can makers, fillers, and their suppliers: cantechthegrandtour.com
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