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Article | September 30, 1997
Last month it was Pepsi/Frito-Lay snacks in a can for vending machines (see PW, Sept. '97, p. 4). What else does the future hold for automated vending?
Try canned T-shirts and baseball caps from Newark DE-based K-Ration Co. The company began operation as an apparel marketer priding itself on high-quality T-shirts featuring nostalgic World War II-style artwork. Placing the T-shirts in aluminum cans was thought to be a clever marketing shtick. But as demand increased from other companies wanting to have their own T-shirts canned for promotional programs K-Ration realized that revenue could be generated not only from sales of its T-shirts but also from packaging shirts for others. For the past year the firm has operated a contract packaging service using a hydraulic press to compress the shirts into shapes that will fit the cans. Shirts are manually placed into the cans and then pull-tab lids are seamed on. Baseball hats are carefully rolled and placed in cans. Graphics are screen-printed on-site by K-Ration in four colors or labels are available if desired for promotional packages. Because the company is buying relatively small quantities of cans it relies mainly on overruns and clearing houses for its cans. Two can sizes are available: a 309/ 306 (shown) and a 211/ 604 that looks like a 16-oz "tall-boy" beer can. Thus far distribution of the $19.99 canned shirts and caps has been primarily through the Internet. But now the company plans to market its products in the tall-boy can through special vending machines that will accept supplier credit cards.
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