Caps and closures are the gateway for many consumers to the inside of a beverage. A key part of beverage packaging, cap and closure innovations this year are targeting cost saving, sustainability, safety, differentiation and interactive packaging solutions.
“Not all that long ago, if a closure was tight and leak-proof, it was considered acceptable,” says Sheila Heath, director of marketing at Crown Closures USA, Philadelphia. “This is no longer the case. Reliable closure performance is a given. Instead, innovation has become key to market success for any product that uses a closure in its package design.”
Beverage companies and retailers alike are looking for sustainable packaging solutions that enhance the marketability of their brands and attract consumers. Closure Systems International (CSI), Indianapolis, has developed lightweight solutions for a variety of bottle finishes. CSI expanded its short-height mini closures with AS-Lok mini for aseptically filled beverages such as juices and teas. The AS-Lok minis are 28-mm. tall and feature a one-piece plug design with top and outside seals. The closure shape and sealing profile allow for clean sterilization, the company says.
For carbonated beverages, CSI offers Xtra-Lok mini, a lined short-height 28-mm. closure, and Omni-Lok mini, a linerless short-height 28-mm. closure. For beer and other malt beverages, CSI provides MB-Lok mini with a scavenger liner. For bottled water, CSI’s mini portfolio includes the new Nitro-Lok mini 28-mm. and the new Aqua-Lok mini 26-mm., which offers a 40 percent resin savings in the bottle finish and closure compared to the standard 26-mm. Both water bottle caps provide tamper evidence prior to seal release.
Lightweighting bottle caps reduces resin, the cost of the entire cap, and helps bottlers optimize their total cost of operations.
“The material weight savings in the bottle finish and cap range from 20 percent to 40 percent,” says Jane Haywood-Rollins, CSI’s Global Marketing Services Manager. “This saves over 1 million pounds of plastic a year for a customer running a high-speed bottling line, ultimately reducing landfill waste. There is also economic benefit in packaging material savings as a result of this weight reduction.”
In addition to CSI’s mini portfolio of lightweight closures for lightweight bottle finishes, the company recently launched a number of lightweight closures for existing, standard size bottle finishes. CSI’s Aqua Max 30/25 for bottled water, Pro-Max 38-mm. for aseptically filled beverages, and Extra-Lox 38-mm. OD for hot-fill beverages are all lightweight closure solutions that do not require a bottle finish change, Haywood-Rollins says.
One of the largest items that is overlooked when evaluating the environmental impact of a closure is its ability to run efficiently, says Jay Martin, vice president of operations at IPEC, New Castle, Pa. IPEC offers a lightweight 26.7-mm. flat cap for non-CSD as well as lightweight 38-mm. closures for HDPE and PET bottles.
“IPEC’s closures are engineered with a great amount of focus on the ability for the bottler to run their line at faster speeds, with less quality issues and reduced scrap,” Martin says. “… Lines running below optimal efficiency are an enormous waste of energy, raw materials and water, and all translate to a waste of money.”
One of the other areas that IPEC focused on in its closures’ engineering processes is the ability to design features that allow more caps to fit in a box.
“This translates up to 27 percent more product per truckload than many of our competitors,” Martin says.
For the home and office delivery bottled water market, IPEC also released an environmentally friendly closure. IPEC’s 55-mm. IRS is a one-piece resealable closure, which makes it unique in the North American market where the caps usually are molded in two separate pieces and then assembled, Martin says. The 55-mm. IRS fits on all industry-standard bottles, and features a flexible gasket lining to seal on battered bottles.
Closures today also offer beverage-makers the opportunity to increase visual appeal. For example, Crown Holdings Inc. recently introduced several new metal closure finishes, including a matte, metallic sparkle and a special color-changing lacquer that instantly changes with a turn of the package, Crown Closures’ Heath says.
“The finishes can withstand pasteurization, and in some cases, retort filling processes, while ensuring the caps complement the package contents,” she says.
Crown also introduced a special ink to print on the inside metal closures. The Food and Drug Administration and the European Union compliant material provides an additional platform for extra branding, Heath says.
Another trend affecting cap and closure development is consumers’ desire for convenient and easy-to-open packages. Crown developed Ideal Closure, a hybrid of a plastisol-lined metal disk and a plastic band, which ensures easy opening, Heath says. The closure’s two-stage opening mechanism separates the force required to overcome the friction between the closure threads and the container from the force required to release the vacuum in the pack. The metal disk forms an airtight seal against the container to guard against oxygen ingress, while the plastic band includes a perforated drop-down section that breaks before the seal is broken to provide tamper evidence. This feature eliminates the need for a secondary inner seal.
“[Ideal Closure] is applicable for plastic containers and glass, which has proven essential to processors considering a transition,” Heath says.
Differentiation and consumer confidence are key drivers affecting beverage packaging in the nutrition market as well.
“The nutrition industry has done a great job educating the customer on the benefits of active ingredients in supplement and food and beverage form,” says Derek Hopkins, president of Liquid Health Labs, Deerfield, R.I. “The customer is then more knowledgable, willing and excited to derive nutrition and specific health benefits through functional foods and especially beverages. However, that customer needs to have confidence in the quality of the product, the efficacy of the ingredients and the fact that the ingredients are present in sufficient amounts.”
Liquid Health Labs aids consumer confidence with its PowerCap, an interactive cap designed to protect ingredients, including active ingredients, flavors and colors, from degradation. When PowerCap is twisted, consumers release the ingredients into the liquid.
“PowerCap products deliver fresh ingredients, limit the amount of actives needed to meet your ingredient label claim, while addressing shelf-life and vitamin-degradation challenges,” Hopkins says. “Beyond traditional ingredients, PowerCap opens up the opportunity to deliver challenging ingredients such as probiotics, enzymes and other highly sensitive ingredients not normally found in an RTD water beverage.”
The company further developed PowerCap’s line for 2009, and now includes 26.7-mm., 28-mm., 38-mm. and 43-mm. sizes in addition to new technologies for hot-fill and aseptic applications.
“We are currently building out our supply chain mostly with cold-fill bottled water companies looking to diversify their businesses and be able to offer value-added products realizing higher margin business without having to change their business model and invest in hot-fill systems,” Hopkins says.
An added benefit to avoiding the hot-fill process is that products that incorporate PowerCap are “greener” than an RTD hot-fill product, Hopkins says. “Cold-fill bottles use less plastic, the energy needed for hot filling is avoided, and production overages for ingredients â€” because ingredients are degraded by heat â€” are not necessary,” he explains. BI