Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: market and packaging


2022 data referring to the trend of the “drinks” sector describe limited growth in production and a significant increase in turnover. An analysis of the consumption of primary, secondary, transport and accessory packaging.

Barbara Iascone

The subject of this analysis is the sector regarding alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks produced in Italy, imported and exported, as well as consumed in our country (for this last parameter we take into consideration the drinks distributed through the different sales channels, mass retail, HoReCa, online sales, etc.)

The sector as a whole is conditioned in various ways by seasonality: the consumption of alcoholic drinks is concentrated in festive periods, especially Christmas, while the non-alcoholic drinks area is particularly sensitive to the trend of summer consumption, influenced by the weather.

The drinks area - including mineral water - recorded in 2022 limited growth in production terms (+1.9%). In terms of turnover, however, the increase was decidedly more significant, over 11%, certainly attributable to the general increase in prices, but also to the consumption of products in higher price ranges.

Table 1. Balance of the beverage sector. Values in millions of litres.
  2007 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Production 22,266 25,502 25,894 24,825 26,084 26,579
Import 1,283 1,276 1,289 1,203 1,483 1,548
Export 3,017 5,162 5,394 4,608 4,992 5,567
Consumption 20,532 21,616 21,789 21,420 22,575 22,560
Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

Market trend and production volumes in Italy

In 2022, litres produced exceeded 26,570 million, imports were around 1,540 million, describing a trend of +4.4% compared to 2021. Exports followed a decidedly more dynamic trend, closing the year with +11.5% and exceeding 5,500 million litres. Apparent consumption, which doesn’t take account of movements in inventories, is practically stable (-0.1%). It’s necessary to underline, however, that the movement in inventories is a very important factor in this sector, especially for the alcoholic drinks sector.

The data trend for 2022 is the result of a physiological adjustment that has characterized almost all of Italian manufacturing. After the sharp drops in 2020 and the relative recoveries in the following year, 2022 returned to a more contained pace.

Table 2. Balance of the alcoholic beverage sector. Values in millions of litres.
  2007 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Production 5,062 6,091 6,579 6,054 6,221 6,111
Import 809 919 912 822 1,012 1,049
Export 1,617 2,589 2,808 2,378 2,653 2,708
Consumption 4,254 4,421 4,684 4,498 4,580 4,451
Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

Alcoholic drinks

Wines, sparkling wines, beer, spirits and aperitifs make up this market area which, in 2022, bucked the trend, registering a fall in production by -1.8%, taking the millions of litres produced to around 6,110. Consumption fell by -2.8%. Analysing, however the data expressed in turnover, there was a positive trend, which is explained by the trend of consuming more expensive products to a greater extent than cheaper ones.

With regards to foreign trade, there was growth both in imports and exports, of respectively +3.7% and +2.1%. Among alcoholic drinks, the lion’s share related to wines and sparkling wines which, together account for 66,1%; their production alone grew by 3.6%. The prospects for 2023 are for a growth of around +2%.

Table 3. Balance of the non-alcoholic beverage sector. Values in millions of litres.
  2007 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Production 17,204 19,411 19,315 18,771 19,863 20,468
Import 474 357 376 381 471 499
Export 1,400 2,573 2,586 2,230 2,339 2,859
Consumption 16,278 17,195 17,105 16,922 17,995 18,109
Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

Non-alcoholic drinks

Given that they account for 77% of the market, non-alcoholic drinks significantly influence the sector trend. In 2022 production was +3%, exceeding 20,460 million litres.

With regards to foreign trade, exports were up +22%, with over 2,800 million litres sold. Imports recorded a more modest, but still dignified growth of +5.9%. From an analysis of these volumes, it emerges that mineral water remains the most representative of the segment with 77.7% and it’s precisely this predominance that influences the entire segment: in 2022, while other non-alcoholic segments show falls in production – with the exception of still soft drinks at +3.5% - mineral water closed the year with a growth trend of +3.9%.

Summarising. Below we show the average trends recorded by the sector from 2007 to 2022.

Alcoholic drinks

Production +4,1 annual average
Export +13,5% annual average
Import +5,9% annual average
Consumption +0,9% annual average

Non-alcoholic drinks

Production +3,8% annual average
Export +20,8% annual average
Import +1,1% annual average
Consumption +2,2% annual average

Numbers and types of packaging

Analysing the different types of packaging used in 2022, the tonnes of primary, secondary packaging, for transport and accessories were over 4,800,000, of which almost 4,000,000 for primary packaging. There is overall a net predominance of the use of plastic packaging (59.6%). The packaging mix is further divided between glass packaging (30.3%) and cans, cartons, cheer packs, glasses and draft drink dispensers (which cover the remaining 10%).

Comparing 2002 and 2022, it emerges that plastic bottles have caught on in the last 20 years, increasing with respect to the other types of packaging, especially compared to glass, a phenomenon that mainly relates to non-alcoholic drinks.

Table 4. Packaging mix beverage sector. Values %.
  2002 2022
Glass bottles 33.20% 30.30%
Mainly paper laminates 4.20% 3.70%
PET bottles 55.60% 59.60%
Metal tins 2.60% 2.10%
Other (1) 4.40% 4.40%
Total 100.00% 100.00%

(1) Cheerpacks, cups, draught distributors

Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

With regards to alcoholic drinks, the glass bottle continues to be the most used packaging, with a market share of 78.3%. The “others” category follows with 12.6% and which includes kegs, demijohns and draft drink dispensers. Mainly paper-based laminated containers account for 5.6% of the packaging mix, while metal cans have a market share of 2.6% and plastic bottles 0.9%. Analysing the differences with the packaging mix of 2002, there is a decrease in rigid mainly paper-based laminated containers.

Table 5. Packaging mix alcoholic beverage sector. Values %.
  2002 2022
Glass bottles 78.20% 78.30%
Mainly paper laminates 6.40% 5.60%
PET bottles 0.90% 0.90%
Metal tins 2.00% 2.60%
Other (1) 12.40% 12.60%
Total 100% 100%

(1)Cheerpacks, cups, draught distributors

Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

The plastic bottle remains predominant in the non-alcoholic drinks segment, in which mineral water is the main user. In 2022, the plastic bottle accounts for 77.8%, while glass accounts for 15.4%. Mainly paper-based laminated containers (3%), cans (1,9%) and “other” which includes cheer packs, kegs and draft dispensers (1.8%). Making a comparison with 2002, it’s clear that in this area plastic has eroded the market share of other packaging, confirming what has been described for the entire drinks area. In this sense, there’s no doubt that the ever-greater use of recycled plastic in the production of bottles has had an effect, especially in the packaging of mineral water.

Leaving aside the numbers, it is, in any case, evident that for some years in the non-alcoholic drinks sector there has been a push towards the glass container, especially in the Ho.Re.Ca. context: still drinks and fruit juices are an example. It is worth pointing out the loss of position between 2002 and 2022 of mainly paper-based laminated containers in the alcoholic drinks area: the reasons for the trend are essentially to be found in the reduced use of this type of container in the wine sector.

Table 6. Packaging mix non-alcoholic beverage sector. Values %.
  2002 2022
Glass bottles 18.40% 15.40%
Mainly paper laminates 3.50% 3.00%
PET bottles 73.60% 77.80%
Metal tins 2.80% 1.90%
Other (1) 1.70% 1.80%
Total 100% 100%

(1) Cheerpacks, cups, draught distributors

Source: Banca Dati Istituto Italiano Imballaggio
Find out more information about the companies mentioned in this article and published in the Buyers' Guide - PackBook by ItaliaImballaggio
Istituto Italiano Imballaggio

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