Metal packaging leader Ball looks to grow Indian business

Opportunity for recyclable metal beverage packaging

Amit Lahoti, managing director of Ball Beverage Packaging in India

Ball is a US-based global supplier of metal packaging with a turnover of nearly US$ 11 billion. Founded in 1880, it employs more than 17,500 people worldwide. Ball in India is headquartered in Bengaluru with two beverage packaging manufacturing plants. The Taloja plant on the outskirts of Mumbai was set up in 2006 and the second beverage can-making plant in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh was set up just three years ago. Ball also has an aerosol can plant located at Sanand in Gujarat, which is run by a separate management team. In addition, the company has a global IT center in Hyderabad.

Overall, Ball’s investment in India stands at Rs. 1,000 crores. The company has the capacity to produce 250 ml, 350 ml and 500 ml metal cans in the country. Within the Asia Pacific and the Middle East region, the company produces 6 or 7 different sizes which can help supplement local production in order to grow the market. Across India there are nearly 35 to 40 beverage filling and sealing locations for metal cans. Ball partners with brand owners and the co-packers to help them with packaging design solutions.

Potential of metal packaging in India

Ball’s beverage can units supply to companies such as PepsiCo and Coca Cola, which are its biggest customers in India, and to numerous beer companies in India. The current total capacity of Ball in India is close to 1.3 billion cans. “If we look at the packaging market as such, today, India consumes close to 20 billion packages and the share of metal packaging is comparatively small. We are looking to make the most out of these figures and are keen to capitalize on the opportunities that lie in the Indian market. If we look at the growth trend, we will see that by 2030, India will consume close to 50 billion packages which takes the growth in the consumption of beverage packaging to 8%. That growth is driven by increased GDP, growth in modern trade and increasing urbanization.

9ball beverage cans making unit
A beverage can manufacturing plant

“In terms of metal packaging, the penetration of metal cans in developing markets such as Brazil is close to 100 cans per capita. Vietnam, having a similar GDP as India, has 70 cans per capita consumption. Whereas in India, the consumption is less than 1 can per capita. So you see the size of the opportunity in India and the growth that we can register in this country is huge,” says Amit Lahoti, managing director of Ball Beverage Packaging in India. Ball is pretty optimistic about the growth of metal packaging in India, partly because of the various regulations that have come in place that are questioning the use of single-use plastic packaging.

Lahoti points to some of the challenges in India, such as excise duty on beer in glass bottles being lower in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, than beer packed in metal cans. Hence, Ball plans to work with the government and other stakeholders to provide metal packaging a level playing field to compete in the market. It also plans to seek preferential duty for a brief period of time to help Ball grow a particular metal package in the Indian market more so because a metal can remains one of the most sustainable options in the market currently since it is totally recyclable and has a good record as far as waste collection because of its high value.

Innovations in metal packaging

There are many print innovations in metal packaging using new inks and coatings with features like matte and haptic finishes and glow-in-the-dark graphics that are being used by brand owners to make their products stand out on the shelf. Recently, the company announced aluminum cups, which the company claims is a perfect replacement to a plastic cup. While from the cost perspective, it does not seem to be the most viable solution, when one looks at the total cost of disposing, collecting and recycling single-use cups, aluminum turns out to be a fairly competitive package. Ball is also working with several dairy brands to leverage aluminum as a packaging material for their products. At the same time, it is aiming at the nascent but upcoming craft brewery market in the country.

Ball’s sustainability agenda

The company works with several organizations globally, some of which are government controlled, to collect used beverage cans that are sent to its metal suppliers who have dedicated facilities for recycling. Ball participates as an influencer in the entire process without being in direct control because of the varying regulations in different countries.
When one looks at India, much of the collection of post consumer metal cans is through various informal channels. Although the collection rate for aluminum cans is said to be 91% in the country, navigating the informal channels can be tedious. Ball has begun talking to some agencies who can help it collect the waste metal cans for shipping back to the metal suppliers for recycling. As the volumes continue to grow, Ball plans to work with the recently formed Aluminum Beverage Cans Association of India to implement this practice.

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