Early in 2000 we took a look at beermeister Miller as it prepared to take some of its nice, cold, frosty brew doggies out of their traditional glass bottles and aluminum cans and into plastic bottles -- a move hoping to capitalize on plastic's ease of recycling, lightness, toughness, and cooling aplomb.

Yesterday, things moved in the other direction, with Alcoa (NYSE:AA) announcing a deal to package Pittsburgh Brewing's products in aluminum bottles -- a move hoping to capitalize on aluminum's toughness and cooling aplomb, not to mention its lightness and ease of recycling.

What does it mean? Well, you can bet that Alcoa likes being out in front on this one. It's a similarly safe bet that Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD), Coors (NYSE:RKY), and others will watch closely if not follow suit. Does packaging matter? Plastic bottles are a niche "beer delivery mechanism," but that doesn't mean small changes meant to suit the needs, demands, and idiosyncrasies of customers can't have a substantial impact on a business.

Alcoa can't have been happy about the propagation of plastic drink bottles, as the single serving has moved past 12 ounces into megacalorie country. Here's one way the company can fight back. Or look at pop bottler Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO): The venerable company has managed to get a measurable pop to sales simply by putting cans in those handy "fridge packs."

And it's difficult to see Mentadent, a Church & Dwight (NYSE:CHD) product since it was acquired from Unilever (NYSE:UL), becoming a credible toothpaste brand as quickly as it did without its innovating packaging. Our grocery stores, meanwhile, are chock-full of examples of companies looking to find new ways to sell their customers old products.

In all businesses -- but especially established, slow-growth ones -- any advantage or new way to juice sales is worth investigating. No product, not even beer, sells itself.

For the lowdown on another consumer products innovation, check out Procter & Gamble's Rising Tide, by Steven Mallas.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.