For a little more than 60 years, Sprite has come in an iconic green bottle. Sure, it's changed over time, but walk into any store and the green bottle has been one of the most recognizable soft drink brands.
Starting tomorrow, however, that's changing. In an announcement this week, Sprite says it is ditching the green bottles in favor of clear plastic bottles that it says are more environmentally friendly:
Sprite, meanwhile, is shifting all of plastic PET packaging from its signature green color to clear, beginning Aug. 1. Although green PET is recyclable, the recycled material is more often converted into single-use items like clothing and carpeting that cannot be recycled into new PET bottles. During the sorting process, green and other colored PET is separated from clear material to avoid discoloring recycled food-grade packaging required to make new PET bottles.
On the one hand, I get it, it's better for the environment. That's certainly as good a reason as any to make a change. Coca-Cola, which makes Sprite, is responsible for the production of 100 billion plastic bottles a year. According to the EPA, only 29 percent of those end up recycled. That's pretty bad.
The company announced in 2018 plans to "collect and recycle the equivalent of a bottle or can for every one the company sells globally by 2030, and to make 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025." This is an important step since it means Sprite bottles can be recycled into new plastic bottles.
"Taking colors out of bottles improves the quality of the recycled material," said Julian Ochoa, who is the CEO of R3CYCLE, which is working with Coca-Cola on its recycling efforts. "This transition will help increase availability of food-grade rPET. When recycled, clear PET Sprite bottles can be remade into bottles, helping drive a circular economy for plastic."
Again, that's a good thing, for sure. Making it so that plastic bottles can be recycled into new plastic bottles means that less new plastic is created, and less ends up in landfills or parks, or oceans.
At the same time, I said the change is bittersweet. That's because even though Coca-Cola is making the change for a good reason, it's still a big departure from what people have come to associate with Sprite. Some customers reacted to the announcement by saying they couldn't imagine drinking Sprite out of anything but a green bottle. Nothing else is changing about Sprite--just the color of the bottle, but that changes the perception.
It's amazing how much things like the color of the packaging effects our perception of products, especially things we consume into our bodies. Also, people just don't like change, even when it's for a good reason.
The point here is really simple: you can put all the effort you want into things like a logo or color scheme, but your brand is really the way people feel about your product or company. Everything else just serves to bring out that feeling.
In this case, however, the change is no doubt worth it if it means reducing plastic waste. Now, if Coca-Cola can just convince people to worry less about the color of the plastic, and more about what they do with it when they're done drinking whatever was in it.