Beverage Coding
Coding suppliers devise systems with more reliable output
Beverages are bottled in environments that are notoriously harsh to processing equipment. Coding equipment has it especially tough. The performance of high-tech lasers and ink jets are exceedingly influenced by temperature fluctuation, wetness, humidity and errant debris.
Last month, Videojet, Wood Dale, Ill., dispatched one of its newest laser coders — a Videojet 3410 50-watt CO2 steered-beam laser coder — to mark bottles produced by a contract beverage filler based in the southeast region of the United States. According to Videojet’s Jim Lorenz, product manager responsible for the North American laser business, the coder employs an air knife approach to simultaneously clean and dry the laser scan heads, while cleaning and drying the product’s absolute marking area, thereby surmounting unfavorable processing conditions while increasing output speeds. Individual marks are made by using the laser to literally burn ink from the label, thus creating the mark.
“Our customer was producing about 1,000 marked bottles per minute, but this laser’s speed has upped their production output, enabling them to obtain speeds of up to 1,250 to 1,300 bottles per minute,” he says. “The production line is already situated in a hot, humid environment, and when you print that fast, your laser becomes very hot. As a result, if the laser is not properly cooled and protected against the environment, the life of the laser is diminished considerably.”
Lorenz says the laser carries an IP 5 rating since the laser tube is internally well-cooled, and protects against dust and moisture, even in high-heat and humidity environments. “There are a lot of lasers that code on beverage industry labels, but this one is unique because we expect the life of the laser to be long due to the way the laser is protected and cooled against the environment,” he says.
Markem Corp.’s SmartLase low-power, CO2 laser also takes into account the wear and tear effect on its laser. Its “patented technology allows the laser to cycle on and off only once during the printing of an entire code, unlike vector printing which requires the laser to cycle on and off with each character,” says Elaine Greene, senior marketing representative at Markem, Keene, N.H. “To clarify how this impacts reliability, think of a light bulb. When does a light bulb typically fail? It fails when you flip the switch on. The less the laser is turned off and on, the less stress is applied to the laser.”
The SmartLase’s patented dot matrix technology, ideal for PET, aseptics and glass, makes efficient use of energy, reducing power requirements, and in doing so, lowering operating costs.
Coding against the odds
In addition to the aforementioned conditions that can impact the longevity and output reliability of laser coders, some of the most common problems that can occur in the realm of beverage coding center on condensation and its ability to wreck havoc with a code’s lasting integrity.
Many equipment suppliers market coders designed to excel in wet conditions. Among them is the Ci Series from ID Technology Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. A line of small-character continuous inkjet printers, the Ci Series features immediate dry times, top-notch adhesion and high-quality print for applying beverage date codes, expiry dates and lot codes. Its high-contrast, yellow pigmented inks work especially well on dark surfaces or on clear bottles containing dark products.
Guy Bradford, inkjet product manager, adds that the ciSeries printers are also available with special MEK Plastic Ink that is ideally suited for printing on most plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene as well as most glass and metals. “Its ‘fast-dry’ characteristics and capability of penetrating a layer of condensation make it an excellent fit for the beverage industry, especially dairy and juice products,” he says. “Its excellent penetration and adhesion to waxy and greasy substrates make it a great fit for these cold-fill applications.”
Within the laser coding realm, ID’s Bill Andre, laser product specialist, remarks that laser coding works extremely well on PET. “The permanent mark left by the laser is crisp and very clear,” he says. “The bottler has the option to use either dot matrix or vector characters depending on which one gives the best results on a particular substrate. Marks on labels, PET and glass are easily achieved either statically or dynamically.”
And for beverages sold by the case or the tray, Markem’s Model 5000 Series hot melt ink jet tray printers provide the ability to print detailed logos, graphics and even 100 percent scannable bar codes onto shrinkwrap and corrugated cardboard, eliminating the need for an inventory of preprinted trays.
“Unlike other inks,” says the company’s Greene, “the MARKEM TouchDry hot-melt ink produces a print that maintains its integrity and legibility regardless of variations in corrugated or recycled content and is not affected by moisture or condensation.”
Advancing inks and state-of-the-art coding technologies are enabling beverage manufacturers and contract producers to get the most bang for their equipment buck, no matter how intricate the application. BI
Jose Cuervo unveils new designs
Jose Cuervo International has updated the look of its Jose Cuervo Especial and Jose Cuervo Clásico premium tequila brands. A new, slightly taller bottle is complemented by a restyled, contemporary label that communicates the brand’s Mexican heritage. An embossed design that includes the family crest, founding date (1795) and phrase Hecho en Mexico, meaning “Made in Mexico,” along with the Cuervo signature seal continue to be featured on every bottle.
“The change is subtle but distinctive,” says Neil Gallo, senior director, North America for Jose Cuervo International. “We believe it serves to enhance the premium image and position of our brands without sacrificing the signature look our consumers know and trust.”
New packaging for Odell Brewing
Odell Brewing recently launched a new English-style bottle that pays tribute to its English roots. The matte labels are hand-drawn, conveying the quality of the handcrafted beer inside. The company says the new designs allow the personality of each beer to shine. Topping it all is a cap with the redesigned Odell Brewing company logo.
Chardonnay - to go
After being introduced in early 2005, Fetzer Valley Oaks’ “To Go” wines in unbreakable, recyclable, l87-ml. bottles are being offered in “go have fun” locations such as ballparks, golf courses, racetracks and zoos. SBC Park in San Francisco, home of the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Zoo and the Louisville Slugger field are among the first to offer the convenience and safety of the new wine offerings to fans. Fetzer’s Valley Oaks Ready To Go wines are also available in four-packs of Chardonnay, Merlot and White Zinfandel.  
Tequila Rose gets a facelift
In September, McCormick Distilling Co.’s flagship Tequila Rose strawberry flavored cream liqueur and tequila, will debut new packaging that’s been two years in the making. The new packaging trades the old stock bottle for a sleek, pyramid-shaped, custom shell. The bottle has a satin finish, updated label and a more upscale appearance.
The new Tequila Rose will be available in a variety of sizes, including 1.75-liter, 1-liter, 750-ml., 375-ml., 200-ml. and 50-ml. The product also will be available in gift packs featuring the newly designed bottle in the 750-ml. size with two hand-blown shot glasses etched with the McCormick logo. The gift packs will be available nationally starting this month.
Seasonal packaging for Camus Cognac 
Camus Cognac, a producer of premium French Cognac, recently introduced two gift packages for the 2005 holiday season. The Camus Grand VSOP gift package combines a 750-ml. bottle of Camus’ best-selling cognac with two crystal balloon glasses in an elegantly designed presentation box. The gift package carries a suggested retail price of $34.99.
With a suggested retail price of $90, the Camus XO Supérieur gift package features a 750-ml. crystalline perfume bottle of Camus’ award-winning cognac and two tasting glasses. Both gift packages, which began shipping Sept. 1 in cases of six, are available to U.S. distributors and on- and off-premise establishments through CIL US Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Camus Cognac.
Cool2Go keeps beer colder, longer
Keeping beer cold on a hot summer day used to be a tough proposition, but the new “Cool2Go” wrap from DuPont, consisting of a thin insulating layer, protects beer from heat transferred by warm hands, condensation and outside temperature. The wrap is featured exclusively on The Labatt Blue Cold One, which is presently available in only Ontario and Quebec, Canada.
The “Cool2Go” wrap is made by placing a high-tech, polymer insulation between two layers of DuPont Teijin Films Melinex polyester film. A patented process produces a thin thermal barrier that locks in coldness, and the blue hues on the shrinkwrap were created with DuPont Cyrel NOW plates.
Trigger Cap for beverage blends
Century Foods International, a division of Hormel Foods Corp., has made available Trigger Cap technology for beverage containers. The Trigger Cap is a sealed reservoir that can hold up to 8-ml. of shelf-stable liquid or powder ranging from flavors, electrolytes, agglomerated supplements or live cultures.  The cap features a dished top that consumers depress to quickly and easily release the contents into the drink prior to consumption. The cap’s underside contains small levers that rupture the perforated membrane and hold it open for discharge. Trigger Cap technology is designed with minimal components so as not to impede bottling line efficiency.
Are you ready for some football?
Budweiser and Bud Light, the “official beer sponsors” of 28 National Football League teams, will introduce team-specific packaging in markets nationwide, allowing football fans to celebrate the 2005 season while showing support for their favorite team.
All 12 Anheuser-Busch domestic breweries will be involved in the team-specific packaging campaign, which will produce more than 78 packaging combinations on 12 million cases of Budweiser and Bud Light aluminum cans. Team-specific packaging was launched on Aug. 22 in time for the Labor Day selling period.