NEW YORK - Coca-Cola Co. announced a plan on Thursday that brings it closer to rolling out soft drink bottles made entirely from plant-based plastic.
Coke and archrival PepsiCo Inc. are in a race to use greener packaging, a challenge for carbonated beverages that put a lot of pressure on the walls of bottles.
Coke, the world's largest maker of non-alcoholic drinks, said it signed agreements with three biotechnology companies — Gevo Inc, Virent and Avantium — to create plant-based plastic on a global scale so Coke can use it in bottles for drinks from its trademark cola to Dasani water.
The bottles should roll out in the next few years, a Coke executive said.
In 2009, Coke introduced a plastic bottle that was up to 30 percent plant-based. It has since distributed more than 10 billion of the bottles in 20 countries.
The latest step allows the remaining 70 percent of the material to be derived from plants.
Coke's goal is to satisfy all of its non-recycled plastic needs with plant-based plastic by 2020.
Over the summer, PepsiCo introduced bottles for its 7UP brand in Canada made from 100 percent recycled plastic.
Virent, a start-up company that produces both fuel and plastics feedstocks, said it would pick a site for a manufacturing plant next year and is targeting 2015 for first production of plant-based paraxylene that will be used in the Coke bottles.
That planned factory will be capable of producing 30,000 tons per year of paraxylene, enough for about 4 billion bottles.
"At the price of crude oil today, we are able to compete with oil-based paraxylene now," Virent Chief Executive Lee Edwards told Reuters.
Coke shares were up 60 cents, or nearly 1 percent, to $66.86 in afternoon trade.
Gevo shares were up 86 cents, or 15 percent, to $6.50.
(Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York, additional reporting by Matt Daily; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and John Wallace)