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Heinz plays catch-up, licenses Coca-Cola's recyclable PlantBottle packaging

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The strategic partnership between the two snack, food and beverage giants proves that corporate sustainability strategies could be a source of potential new revenue.

Here's proof positive that internal investments in sustainability measures can pay off in the form of new revenue for companies smart enough to think out of the box.

Coca-Cola, which will invest upwards of $150 million in recyclable PET plastic bottles that it has branded as PlantBottle, has inked a strategic partnership with Heinz, under which the ketchup maker will use the packaging for its 20-ounce ketchup bottles starting in June 2011. The move is the biggest change to Heinz's ketchup bottling strategy since it moved from glass to plastic in 1983. Heinz has set its sights on 20 percent reduction in energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and solid waste disposal by 2015.

Although the terms aren't disclosed, it is clear from Coca-Cola's press release about the development that the giant beverage maker sees this as the first in a string of potential relationships around its packaging.

PlantBottle is made partially out of plants (up to 30 percent) and they use fewer non-renewable plastic resources than comparable bottles. The primary ingredient in PlantBottle is sugarcane ethanol sourced from Brazil, and the company estimates that since its introduction in 2009, it has helped eleimted almost 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Coca-Cola plans to have all its beverage in these bottles by 2020. Right now, the PlantBottles are used in countries including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

Says Heinz chairman, president and CEO William R. Johnson:

"The partnering of Coca-Cola and Heinz is a model of collaboration in the food and beverage industry that will make a sustainable different for the planet. Heinz Ketchup is going to convert to PlantBottle globally, beginning with our best-selling 20-ounce variety of Heinz Ketchup, which will reach consumers this summer."

During 2011, Heinz will use approximately 120 million PlantBottles, compared with the more than 5 billion that will be used by Coca-Cola this year.

You can look at this relationship from a number of different angles. It proves that innovation around sustainability doesn't necessarily have to be a drain on the corporate coffers. It can provide a new source of revenue. What's more, if you think about it, Coca-Cola is helping another company reach its own corporate sustainability goals, which magnifies its own efforts to make a more positive impact on the planet.

A very intriguing relationship indeed.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure