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Beverage Packaging: The Importance of Load Safety During Transportation


At a glance, it might seem like neither beverage packaging nor the distribution cycle of these products have any significant hurdles. However, there are several factors that complicate the process since the moment a beverage bottle or can leaves the factory until it reaches the end consumer.

One of the main challenges faced by the industry are the packaging problems that hinder the distribution process. For this reason, companies in this sector must pay special attention to this process.

Beverage transportation: challenges

In a market that is in constant growth, according to data published in Stadista, the beverage market is expected to grow by 5.4% in 2021, while the alcoholic beverage market will do so by 7.2%. The importance of materials and beverage packaging is not to be underestimated.

This means that each day, thousands of beverages are transported from one place to another to fill store shelves. In the European market this is mainly done by road – a means of transportation that has grown exponentially during the last decade, experiencing a 22%  increase between 2010 and 2019.

It is precise during transportation where the beverage industry faces most of its challenges:

> Product damage during transportation

Product damage during everyday transportation is one of the main challenges faced by the industry. The high rotation of beverages in supermarkets and other establishments where beverages are sold requires the transportation to be made in low quantities but with high regularity.

For example, it is common for beverage packaging products to be shipped via “less-than-truckload shipping.” This shipping model multiplies the number of times that the product is handled and, as a result, the chances of damage.

Generally, this requires the beverages to be packed in boxes and then grouped in pallets. Additionally, for added protection during shipping, the pallets are baled using stretch film, creating safer and more stable load units.

This step is fundamental, since one of the most common problems during transportation is related to poorly secured loads. When trucks need to brake hard or make hard turns, these movements may cause poorly packed boxes to fall and, on occasion, punch through the truck’s walls, spill on the road and cause serious accidents. This does not only impact the goods and leads to losses and additional costs, but also endangers drivers’ lives.

> Torn “stretch film” packaging during transportation

Another common issue affecting the beverage industry is the tearing of the stretch film used to package the products. The purpose of this packaging is to protect the products during transportation and, if broken, the products may move around the transportation vehicle and get damaged. This problem costs the beverage industry a significant amount of money every year.

The main cause of this is that the stretch film is poorly applied because it is too tight or uses an inadequate containment force, or because the quality of the stretch film is not suitable for the product being transported.

In order to detect this problem and prevent possible damages, there is a growing number of beverage distribution centers and manufacturers that rely on transport simulation technologies to test their packaging before releasing their products to the distribution cycle. 

> Costs due to package and product breakage

On one hand, we have the costs that result from the losses that might take place during the transportation of beverages due to breakages and impacts. 

On the other, there are the costs associated with the tertiary packaging, which is to say, with the use of stretch film. A poor choice of the stretch film may lead to over-packaging, where more material than is necessary is used over the fear that the load is unable to withstand the distribution cycle. Or to under-packaging, which would endanger both the products and the transport.


Keys to a safe beverage package transportation

In the beverage industry, the main types of materials and components in use include rigid plastics, flexible plastics, paper and cardboard, rigid metal and glass. And the most common beverage packaging types are bottles, cans, pouches, cartons and others.

As already discussed, a usual combination in beverage packaging implies using a primary packaging (bottles, cans, Tetra Brik, etc.) and in some cases a secondary packaging such as cardboard boxes, then grouping these on pallets, using stretch film to secure the product.

With the goal of guaranteeing product + package safety during transportation, we highlight the following key points:

> An adequate application of stretch film

A poorly applied stretch film can lead to several issues, such as the package getting damaged due to crushing if too much pressure is applied.

A poor placement of the stretch film can lead to several problems, such as damage to the packaging by crushing if too much pressure is applied, the load deforming, which may tip over, or break and releases the goods it contains.

To avoid these problems, it is essential to know the characteristics of the material to be applied and its protective capacity. Stretch film testing allows companies to simulate transport conditions in a laboratory context, in order to optimize packaging before going out into the reality of the distribution cycle.

Advantages of these trials include:

  • Ensure that the stretch film has been applied correctly and the load is stable.
  • Define the correct wrapping protocol for the transported products.
  • Establish the correct amount of film to use, optimizing the amount of packaging. This in turn translates into other benefits, such as reducing the carbon footprint of product transportation or reducing material and transportation.

> Correct placement of the load on the pallet to prevent damage

Heavier products must be transported at the bottom and larger boxes on the edges of the pallet, avoiding gaps between products (dunnage may be used if necessary). In addition, the load must be distributed evenly, avoiding a pyramid shape.

It is also essential for no product to project off the pallet, since it would be more exposed to potential damages. 

> Load securement

Using straps, bars or other suitable methods. Load stability must be guaranteed in order to provide safety both to the products being transported and to the persons involved in the transportation: the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work estimates that inadequate load stability is to blame for 25% of accidents involving trucks.

> Packaging validation 

In order to guarantee the safety of a product during the distribution cycle, it is important to test the beverage packaging before the products face the distribution cycle. Several packaging testing methods exist for this purpose, such as the load stability tests, which include the EUMOS 40509 method to ensure load stability and rigidity, as well as tilt testing, used to verify that the packaged load can withstand the tilting that takes place during transportation. 

Furthermore, by implementing the right packaging testing methods, it is possible not only to guarantee the safety of the load, but also to improve your sustainability


Beverage packaging testing methods

Regardless of the circumstances, it is fundamental to perform a load test to certify that the chosen beverage packaging protocol is suitable to guarantee the safety of the product. 

The most common tests to evaluate the beverage packaging and tertiary packaging include the stress test, vibration test, impact test and acceleration test, among others. 

However, each company must take into account its own needs to choose the most suitable packaging testing methods following in-house testing protocols or international standards in the performance of transport simulations. 

In the case of road transportation in European territory, the EUMOS 40509:2020 standard is the most suitable to evaluate the stability of a load. This is a mandatory test all across Europe, included in Directive 2014/47/EU, which is targeted at all companies and industrial vehicles that distribute their products by road, as well as at transportation companies that offer this service.

Thanks to transport simulation equipment such as the Horizontal Stability Tester and its more compact and easy to transport counterpart, the innSide Boomerang system, it is possible to perform this testing method faster, with added safety, and with precise results. 

Success story: design of specific packaging testing methods

This case involved a multinational brewery with a turnover of 1.3 billion euros. Its objectives included:

  • Growing its business
  • Minimizing its environmental footprint
  • Optimizing its packaging costs
  • Analyze the load stability by following Directive 2014/47/EU and the EUMOS 40509 method included therein

In order to attain those objectives, at Safe Load Testing Technologies we helped the company analyze the behavior of the tertiary packaging that they were using with the purpose of optimizing it so that it would withstand its distribution cycle.

The process involved having a good knowledge of the route, the means of transportation and the events that took place during transportation. To this end, the route was recorded using the Data Recorder, monitoring the real-life distribution hazards (axial vibrations, angular vibrations, impacts, accelerations). 

Subsequently, after analyzing the information collected by the Data Recorder, the packaging testing methods were performed with the purpose of learning how the load behaved in the transportation environment.

After studying the situation, at Safe Load Testing Technologies we were able to determine that the company needed to attain safer load units by optimizing its packaging system. A protocol was therefore designed:

  • Using the Boomerang Stability Tester we performed tests to analyze their cargo parameters (status quo) and evaluate the stability problems. We followed the EUMOS 40509 testing method.
  • We proposed an alternative tertiary packaging design, modifying the stretch film and the parameters of its use. We were able to determine that it was possible to reduce the use of film by 37.5% per pallet.
  • After this change, we retested the load following the 40509 method, guaranteeing improved results in relation to the status quo.

Changing the film, its configuration and its parameters resulted in the following benefits for the company: 

  • Reduction of 1,500 hours of equipment use
  • Compliance with Directive 2014/47/EU
  • Economic savings of 110,250 euros per year
  • Reduction of the carbon footprint, preventing 185 tons of CO2 emissions per year
  • Generating a load units system that is safer and more economically efficient.

Are you a beverage manufacturer or distributor? Do you want to optimize your beverage packaging in order to guarantee that your goods are being safely transported? Would you like to offer optimized film solutions to your clients? At W5Engineering we can help. Contact us and let’s discuss which package optimization and testing solutions are better suited to your needs.

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