New tech reshapes aluminum beverage bottles
Patented technique permits asymmetric bottle shapes to add distinction and create unique branding opportunities paired with a variety of decoration options.
In a me-too world of packaging symmetry, asymmetry can be an attention-grabbing game changer. That’s the reasoning behind several years’ R&D by Montebello Packaging (Ontario, Canada), which unveiled custom-shaped asymmetric aluminum bottles that will available in Q4 2017. Besides product differentiation and a stand-out presence on shelf, a unique shape can create powerful iconic brand equity.
Made using proprietary, patented technology, the uShape bottle represents an opportunity for single-serve beverage packaging for beer, energy drinks, tea, coffee and other products to break out from the rest of the pack.
Montebello Packaging can asymmetrically shape an aluminum bottle with flutes, embossing, debossing and various fine details. Bottles are printed with the customer’s artwork in up to 9 colors using a high-quality dry-offset printing. A variety of visually striking print effects are available, including matte and gloss finishes, metallic and specialty inks, and an assortment of base coating options. The final product is capped using a roll-on pilfer-proof (ROPP) closure. The product is currently available in one base diameter, with hot-fill or ambient-fill volumes of 250mL/8 fl oz to 355mL/12 fl oz depending on the shape and other requirements.
Shatterproof aluminum bottles offer excellent barrier properties and are lightweight for shipping. We find out more in this Q&A interview with Kathy Mercer, director of sales, food and beverage.
What else can you say about the patent and the technology?
Mercer: We have developed a new technology which allows us to produce custom shaped aluminum beverage bottles, named the uShape aluminum bottle. The uShape bottle can be shaped using asymmetrical features, embossed, debossed, among other aesthetic shaping along the full length of the bottle. uShape your story.
I can’t speak too much about the machine itself other than it is the only one of its kind and it has sufficient throughput to accommodate small to large orders.
Why is an asymmetric shape capability desirable? What’s possible?
Mercer: The asymmetric shaping of aluminum changes the game in the sense that companies can now run a marketing or branding campaign that showcases their product and tells their story in a container that stands out on the shelves with all the benefits of aluminum packaging.
The possibilities are endless. We have an in-house graphic design team that works hand in hand with a client’s team to ensure their vision is clearly displayed through their container.
What’s your competitive advantage?
Mercer: Other aluminum beverage container manufacturers are able to shape aluminum bottles using embossing/debossing techniques or shaping through existing technology with necking machines. These manufacturers are unable to create custom shaping with asymmetrical features.
What market trends does this address?
Mercer: Two in particular:
Innovation in recycling: The next generation of consumers are discerning in with their purchases and more curious about a company’s value chains than ever before. As companies embrace circular economy principles, designing packaging with the overall environmental impact in mind is critical to brand loyalty. Aluminum is 100% recyclable and around 70% of aluminum in circulation today is from recycled material.
Package design and labeling: Recent beverage industry trends have placed package design and labeling into the spotlight since consumers are attracted to visually appealing package design with easy to read labels that align with their health and sustainability interests in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
What’s needed from the brand/customer?
Mercer: We are launching a couple of options for customers to have a shaped bottle. One option allows a customer to choose from a series of standard shaped asymmetric bottles that reduce the development and setup project for our customer.
Alternatively, we will take a systematic custom approach to help the customer get started; we will need the expected bottle volume and headspace, ideas about the bottle designs and any concept or artwork already created. We share information at each step of the process, from bottle design, capping, internal coatings, artwork and graphics, proofing and colors.
What level of attention are you seeing?
Mercer: Aluminum provides beverage companies, retailers and consumers with many benefits. We believe the industry has an appetite for asymmetrical shaping of aluminum containers that provide all the efficiencies of an aluminum can. Conventional aluminum cans generally have simple upright cylindrical sidewalls and have been relatively unchanged for 25 years. They are either one-piece bodies, or bodies open at one or both ends and closed at those top and bottom ends by separate parts. As new markets continue to develop in the beverage world and for reasons of aesthetics, consumer appeal and product differentiation, beverage companies can run a unique short term promotional campaign aligning to their long-term branding strategy.
We were awarded two awards this year from the Intl. Metal Decorators Assoc. (IMDA): Technical Achievement Award and Best of Category (Aerosol & Bottle) Award of Excellence for our propotype Muscle Up Milk and Panther asymmetric bottle designs (shown above).
What’s the market status? Where might you see a first adopter?
Mercer: We are conducting testing on custom designed bottles with various clients in the beer, ready-to-drink, carbonated soft drink and nutritional drink markets. We have a limited capacity this year and are scaling our production capacity with approximately 50 million bottles projected to be produced in 2018.
It is difficult to say who exactly will be the early adopter of this technology since there are many possible candidates. Our current marketing and sales efforts have focused on the craft beer industry as well as RTD coffees, teas, Kombucha and carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). The reception has been positive and we look forward to delivering.
What’s the cost premium for these specialty bottles?
Mercer: Our uShape bottles are priced as a specialty package, which can be ordered at Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 30,000 units. The uShape bottles are targeted for short run promotions and long term branding strategies.
What are your geographic markets? And what’s next?
Mercer: Product launch will be in North American markets. However, many beverage companies have a global footprint and we will work to support any type of campaign.
We will keep pushing this innovation to the next level through greater shaping capabilities, different finishes and creative closures and larger fill volumes.
MinnPack celebrates its 15th year to bring you the latest developments in beverage, food and all things packaging as part of a comprehensive event in Minneapolis November 8-9. For more information, visit http://minnpack.packagingdigest.com.