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Cans cleverly cloned

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The Macquarie Dictionary may need to change the definition of a can once all of the technological innovations recently showcased at a recent Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) technical forum arrive in the market. Michael Halley writes for Packaging.

When experts from the paperboard, metal and plastics beverage packaging suppliers come to the same venue to expound the virtues of their products you should expect to come away with quite disparate views.

Such was the case when Patrice Lesage vice president of sales at Sidel Solutions , Charles Vorrath key account manager at Tetra Pak and David Houston general manager technical and engineering services at Amcor’s Rigid Packaging Group presented on behalf of the company and technology.

Overall it was displayed that irrespective of the material used to form a beverage container it “helps to keep your insides in”.

So it is innovation and technological rethinking that will differentiate the dissimilar types of materials and the products made from them.

The AIP was encouraged when a sell out crowd came along, particularly as Lesage had made a special trip from Thailand to address the meeting.

He moved straight into the fray saying that when customers demand a major reduction in bottle costs it is not simply a matter of increasing machine speed.

He stated “for a short period of time any machine can run very fast” but went on to explain that the solution to cost reduction and retention of quality will not be achieved by “turning up the wick”.

Sidel Solutions has invested 25 million Euro in technological rethinking in order to turn customer demands into reality.

The company is now aiming for 2000 + bottles per minute which is a long way from 400 achieved in 1978 when machines were running at 80% efficiency but had a 30 minute change over time per cavity.

Today they are regularly achieving 1800 bottles per minute with machine efficiency of 97% and a change over time of only three minutes. This has been brought about by the development of machines such as the SBO Universal which delivers a process guaranteed to customers’ specification with a commitment to quality at output rates of 1800 bottles per minute.

In line with this cost down new blow moulding technologies focusing on optimum base cooling are delivering energy savings as high as 25%.

The company has 10 new bottle base designs developed with patents pending, which will deliver lower base weights, large process windows at high speed, and air blowing technology for optimum stress cracking elimination and quick cooling.

So the gauntlet was dropped by the plastics container industry for the other materials to pick up or shy away from.

Charles Vorrath picked it up and explained the indisputable market success of Tetra Pak.

Tetra Pak’s reach is equivalent to every person on the planet - man, woman and child - consuming seventeen paperboard packages every year.

Before reaching for the calculator, the number is well in excess of 100 billion and with mainland China consumers growing exponentially, the record keeps being broken.

Tetra Pak, as with plastics, has recorded similar upsurge in sales, since 1980 when only 20 billion packages were sold.

Products filled into Tetra Pak packages are mainly beverages, with dairy products running at 55% and juices, together with still beverages, accounting for 41%.

The other 4% is made up of diverse products with soy and wine being stand out contents.

In a global operation some products are geographically inclined such as wine in Europe which is experiencing major growth. Again, Tetra Pak has a success story to tell about cost reduction and efficiency gains, but it is innovation that sets the scene for excitement.

Tetra Pak’s newest groundbreaking technology is the world’s first retortable carton - Tetra Recart - which revolutionises retorting processes by enabling the sterilisation of food in cartons.

The new Tetra Recart system provides food manufacturers with a viable consumer and retailer-friendly alternative to traditional cans or glass jars - suitable for fruit, vegetables, soups, ready-meals, etc.

It was here that the definition of a can was in need of change, for mention was also made of a Tetra Top Carton Can. Tetra Top for chilled products is a paperboard package that can be produced with a selection from countless direct-injection moulded necks and openings.

Tetra Top Carton Bottle, which has a bottle-like neck and screw cap, is on sale in New Zealand with marked success.

The Carton Bottle currently has sizes ranging from 100 ml to one litre. The 100ml package, referred to as the Carton Shot, is specifically designed for probiotic, functional and energy booster drinks. Also available is the Carton Cup, which is a tear top tub for spoonable products, such as viscous yoghurts and desserts.

Other Tetra Pak innovations include a “clear” Tetra Wedge Aseptic package, as well as a Tetra Wedge Aseptic Microwaveable version, which has no foil in the laminate, and can therefore be placed straight into the microwave.

The White Knight for the traditional beverage can spurred his steed into battle and indicated that amongst the 7300 employees in 66 plants Amcor’s global business is second in sales world wide to Tetra Pak there are many smart people and smart solutions to keep the can from being canned or dropped in the can.

Product Leadership and Innovation in concert with the customers in a trickle down process will be the driver to keep beverage cans on consumers’ want lists.

Saying that most innovations come from additions or improvements to existing products David Houston also stated that innovation has always added to overall sales.

However, he went on to say that the company has a high investment in R&D, but in addition the Rigid Packaging group uses licensing from around the world, and quoted Ball Metal and Crown Cork & Seal for beverage cans, US can for aerosols and impress for food cans as being partners into the future.

Standard-shaped-slimline and special are words David used to describe the range of cans that are available and in every day use.

In the end it is the end that has delivered cost savings and customer acceptance, with special decorations focused on consumer trends.

Cans are available with a crinkle over-varnish, printed with fluorescent or thermocramotic inks or with coloured opening tabs as a matter of course.

The traditional can started its lessening of popularity around 1984 when Coca Cola hit the shelves with a shaped can which today is a little ho-hum.

Heineken’s Keg Can was designed to increase sales and have done so with remarkable results, Jim Beam have just released a “barrel” shaped can aimed at boosting sales, but shaped cans are also the solution to counterfeiting.

In China it was determined that more than 40% of the aerosol WD 40 spray available in stores was counterfeit.

The answer lay in a simple reshaping of the can which fortunately for the brand owner and Amcor’s technology partner, for shaped cans, Crown Cork & Seal (CC&S) is only possible on the CC&S technology.

The simplicity comes from a technology where a regular can is manufactured and then blown into shape using know-how that allows for stretching of the metal but does not damage the internal lining.

Innovation in metal cans is such that aluminium bottles are being produced in Japan using technology that draws the body and irons the wall then necks down the open end to form the final bottle tread and shape.

Although in its infancy the aluminium bottle is returning sales of three billion units, which is a significant inroad into the 30 billion can market.

David mentioned that the company has high hopes for screw cap closures for wine bottles, where they target around half the market.

Versatal a patented polymer coated steel that has the permeability of glass and the strength of steel is just one product that will carry the can well into the future.

So even though a bottle maybe a can, or a carton a bottle, or plastic a laminate on metal or board it should be noted that all are recyclable and some materials such as paperboard come from renewable resources.

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