September 11-15, 2017
Category: Plant / Production

Standardized Container Sizes?

By John Peter Koss

Observing many beverage production lines for 50-plus years has led to the conclusion that container sizes and impacts created throughout the supply chain are still important issues from at least two viewpoints. Some focused questions pertinent to the viewpoints are: 1) Why are there so many sizes? 2) What are the driving forces? 3) What are costs involved? 4) What physical changes can occur? And 5) Is return on investment a consideration? 

Consumer and Sales Viewpoint: Satisfaction with container sizes and packages is absolute. Accommodating various lifestyles must be a good fit. Consumption at one time can be a deciding factor. Containers must be handled safely without a hassle. Getting the most value for the cost can be a serious issue.  

With market volatility, marketing/sales people must decide what sizes offer the highest sales potential. These decisions include space availability, how many sizes can be handled (SKUs issue) and what volume can be displayed. Beverage gondola surveys provided interesting data: A) Overall container sizes/gondola – Average 47, B) Cans – 2-12 41 percent, C) PET – 4-9 38 percent and D) Glass – 3-7 21 percent. Two questions: Are all sizes necessary? Do they promote sales?    

Beverage Manufacturing Viewpoint: Container sizes and related packaging have presented an on-going cost-intensive challenge for beverage operators. Container sizes directly impact machinery design (changeovers), operating capabilities (flexibility) and warehousing space (storage). Container sizing becomes an economics issue—how many ounces to fill and how much to charge per ounce. Sound economics of course; however, container size feasibility cost benefits and realistic acceptable bottom lines can be misleading if not justified and monitored.  

Container sizing is cost intensive in several ways. Not only do producers want to sell as much liquid as possible in a desirable container, but they must also offset costs to operate a multi-sized container manufacturing capability. 

First, containers are primary packages for all beverages and the more sizes that run, the more flexibility is required. Container conveying, preparation, filling and closing must have such capability. Even advanced technology with built-in flexibility has limitations and could result in more lines at additional expense.  

Second, labeling and wraps are secondary packaging requiring flexibility. The current myriad of sizes even challenges built-in change-over mechanisms as to what can be done to handle variable container sizes.

Finally, cases, trays and slip sheets for palletizing packaged product must accommodate various-sized containers in a variety of multi-packs.  

Standardizing container sizes would make machinery and equipment design and frequency an economical reality. Handling ranges of 1-5 sizes vs. 1-20 sizes mandating cost intensive flexibility and capability is a real challenge. Examples - 8 and 12 ounce cans, 8, 20 and 2L PET and perhaps 8 and 12 ounce glass could provide profitable sales.  

John Peter Koss, a beverage operations advisor, is a licensed registered professional engineer and has 50-plus years of beverage business experience. He can be reached at

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