When we purchase six-packs of soda and beer, we have to remember to cut up plastic rings before tossing them away. If undestroyed rings end up near wildlife, they can be caught and trapped. In order to curb this problem, a biodegradable concept was introduced over a year ago and it’s finally been brought to market by a local Florida brewery.
The concept was formed with SaltWater Brewery, who focused on an edible six-pack ring. It’s made from a mixture of excess barley and wheat that’s already in the brewing process. Since animals and fish can mistake six-pack rings for food, digesting these wouldn’t harm them. An added benefit is they’re also 100 percent biodegradable.
“It’s a big investment for a small brewery created by fisherman, surfers and people that love the sea.” SaltWater Brewery president Chris Gove told CraftBeer.com in May 2016, prior to going into prototype testing. “We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board.”
This eventually formed a new company and product that was funded by three different groups in 2017, E6PR -- short for the “Eco 6-Pack Ring.” Investment was made in part by We Believers (advertisement agency), Entelequia (biodegradable supplier in Mexico), and private investors in the beverage packaging industry.
Many complications were faced when trying to bring the product to market. They needed to make sure it could withstand packaging machines, bulk shipment, and maintain adequate shelf life. Its name also changed from “edible” to “eco” in the process as the product could be contaminated in the shipping process.
Finally, the product was introduced by SaltWater Brewery on Tuesday. As announced on Instagram, it can be found on their Screamin’ Reels IPA six-packs at their brewery or in local Whole Foods, Luckys Market, and Publix retailers in South Florida. This remains somewhat of a test to see how it actually performs. If successful, they will scale it up to other interested breweries.
Ultimately, there’s a goal to mass produce the E6PR for major beverage distributors. They’ll be testing another version of the rings that’s made out of by-product waste from beer manufacturing. The startup has been careful in their approach, providing a product that could potentially phase out plastic rings altogether.
“One of the things that we really learned fast as you go into scaling something is that you have one chance for the product to perform in the channel,” Marco Vega, cofounder of We Believers, told FastCompany. “For Big Beer, it’s really about making sure that we can not only produce the E6PRs, but also apply them at the speed that those lines require.”