Packaging: Caps and closures move innovation to the top
As beverage sizes and shapes change, so do the closures that secure the product inside the package. Closure suppliers continue to expand their offerings to become more flexible, all the while trying to reduce customers’ total costs.
“At Crown, we take the time to understand our customers’ challenges and construct effective, long-term solutions,” said Sheila Heath, director of marketing at Crown Closures Machinery, Philadelphia, in a statement. “Our goal is always to provide equipment that will integrate flawlessly into their existing lines, operating at the speed and capacity that is right for the business today, but provide the foundation for expansion when the company grows. Planning ahead ensures quick, seamless transitions in the future.”
Crown offers both metal and composite closures for many beverage applications. Composite closures enable easy opening and resealing, the company says. For single-serve juices and teas, Crown offers 38-mm. and 43-mm. vacuum twist closures; and 48-mm. and 53-mm. vacuum twist closures for larger, multi-serve containers. For nutritional beverages, specialty coffee drinks and infant formulas, the company recommends using its 40-mm. Ideal Closure. The Ideal Closure consists of a metal disk surrounded by a plastic band with a perforated drop-down section.
“The metal disk forms an airtight seal against the container to guard against oxygen ingress,” Heath says. “During the two-part opening process, the drop-down section breaks before the seal is broken to provide clear tamper evidence. This eliminates the need for a secondary inner seal. Also, less removal torque is required as compared to standard closures due to decreased friction between the closure liner and container finish.”
In addition, Crown’s metal closures all feature a secure seal to assure product freshness, and can be decorated using lithographic metal printing technology for high-quality images. Crown also can print on the underside of the closure.
Metal closures also offer a sustainable packaging solution, Heath says.
“The ability to infinitely recycle metal with absolutely no loss or alteration in quality, is the highlight of the sustainability of metal packaging,” she says. “ … The fact that closures make a package reusable is a small sub-trend within the green trend. Metal closures require no additional packaging, and therefore generate less packaging waste.”
Heath says the styles of closures also have evolved to offer more tamper-evident features, such as the secure seal found on all metal and composite closures. Crown also provides a variety of decorative finishes for closures to help beverage companies maximize the real estate of their packages on retail shelves, she says.
“We routinely work with customers to produce high-quality images and logos on top and along the skirt of the closure to grab consumers’ attention,” Heath says.
Recently, Crown began to offer new and rebuilt capping systems to simplify future expansion. The custom capping equipment can accommodate many sizes and styles of closures. The closures can range from 27-mm. to 110-mm. twist, Presson Twist-Off, Continuous Thread, composite and press-on varieties. Systems are designed to operate at speeds up to 1,300 caps per minute depending on closure size, container profile, required output and level of automation.
“In our efforts to continuously advance our technology, Crown was able to redesign a cap application component within our capper,” Heath said. “This redesign was so successful in increasing production output and efficiency levels that the customer was able to eliminate one of three production lines.”
Mini and aseptic closures
Another company that offers a portfolio of closures, capping equipment and technical services is Closure Systems International, Indianapolis. The company’s portfolio now includes a range of patented lined and linerless short-height mini closures; other new light-weight plastic closures for cold-filled, hot-filled and aseptically-filled beverages; a number of new metal closures; and alternative wine closures. In addition to closures, CSI provides capping and technical services for the entire beverage category, including dairy products.
The company says its mini profiles provide benefits beyond the environmental and economic benefits associated with reduced weight packaging.
“Xtra-Lok mini 28 mm. utilizes the ‘Sure Grip’ knurl, an ergonomically designed profile that makes it easy for consumers to grip, and builds brand equity with its classic design,” says John Grainda, CSI’s global carbonated soft drink team leader. “These caps are also available in a rainbow of colors with unique finishes for maximum packaging differentiation and shelf impact.”
Two of CSI’s newer mini profiles include Omni-Lok mini 28 mm. and Aqua-Lok mini 26 mm. Omni-Lok mini is a one-piece closure engineered for sparkling beverage applications. The patented Omni-Seal design ensures high-performance seal integrity across a range of temperature conditions, Grainda says. Omni-Lok mini can be used for packages from 250 ml. to 2.5 liters.
The Aqua-Lok mini is compatible with 1901 bottle finishes and other 26-mm. short-height 3-lead bottle finishes. This closure and short-height bottle finish provide resin material savings up to 40 percent over existing 26-mm. standard finishes, the company says. Aqua-Lok mini also provides tamper evidence before seal release for maximum product security, three-start thread design for easy-opening convenience, and organoleptically tested and approved resin.
“This light-weight closure establishes a new standard in material reduction and conservation while maintaining all the sealing performance, reliability and ease of application that bottlers rely on CSI to provide,” says John Greiner, CSI’s global bottled water marketing manager.
CSI also offers a family of light-weight, non-carbonated beverage closures for aseptic and hot-fill packaging applications in both 38 mm. and 28 mm. sizes. The most recent aseptic closure from CSI is the Asepti-Lok V38 3S closure, a one-piece, three-lead closure. The closure has a designed safety venting feature, tamper evidence and a lube-free design, which prevents contamination of the sterilization bath, the company says.
“CSI has assumed a leadership role in global aseptic applications for juices, nectars and isotonic drinks,” says John Krasich, global non-carbonated beverage team leader at CSI. “With clean, sterile rinsing and pressure-control venting, CSI aseptic closures prevent product spoilage and eliminate risks to consumers from improper storage or handling throughout the entire supply chain.”
For hot-fill applications, CSI’s Extra-Lok 38-mm. OD lined closure maintains the seal of hot-fill packages, but allows excessive pressure due to fermentation to vent, the company says. Extra-Lok 38-mm. OD is a light-weight two-lead closure.
“Beverage closures today are lighter weight and higher performing than ever,” Grainda says. “Helping bottling customers reduce their operating costs, increase productivity and achieve their sustainability goals will continue to be critical. Going forward, it is believed that more emphasis will be placed on features that will help beverage companies build brand loyalty.”
A growing trend in caps and closures is storing dry or liquid ingredients inside the cap, to be released into the product upon opening. Liquid Health Labs, Deerfield, N.H., offers the PowerCap for hot-fill and aseptic applications in both Twist and Push options. Currently, a 28 mm. size is available, and 26.7 mm., 38 mm. and 43 mm. sizes are in development with plans to be released this year, the company says.
PowerCap stores ingredients in the cap to protect them from degradation, the company says. When the cap is pushed, for PowerCap – Push, or twisted, as in PowerCap – Twist, liquid or dry ingredients are released into the product, and an instant color change occurs.
“This allows beverage companies to work with ingredients that they cannot work with in a standard RTD,” says Kenneth Milligan, chief science officer and executive vice president at Liquid Health Labs. “It benefits consumer trust in that they are a part of the beverage development process, and that they are making a product when they need it.”
With the PowerCap, beverage shelf life can be extended because ingredients are only released when the customer opens the cap. Some ingredients, such as probiotics, have a very short shelf life when introduced to liquid, Milligan says.
Liquid Health Labs realized that customers want to be in control of the beverages they consume. By using PowerCap, consumers now can dispense as much or as little of the additional ingredient into the product, says Derek Hopkins, Liquid Heath Lab’s president.
This year, Liquid Health Labs also partnered with Friedrich Sanner, GmbH, a German injection molder, to develop and promote the PowerCap – Twist. The product will be available in 26.7 mm. and 28 mm. sizes.
The company currently is building out their supply chain with cold-fill bottled water companies looking to diversify their business, and be able to offer value-added products without having to change their business model and invest in a hot-fill system, it says.
Products that incorporate PowerCap also have a “green” aspect, the company says. Cold-fill bottles use less plastic, therefore the energy needed for hot filling is avoided and production overages for ingredients are not necessary.
“In energy terms, each finished hot-fill bottled beverage uses roughly half a kilowatt hour more than a PowerCap bottled beverage, which is equal to running a small sized window unit air conditioner for one hour,” Milligan says. “On the scale of hundreds of millions of bottles, converting even a percentage to PowerCap will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the functional beverage industry.” BI