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Canadian/American aseptic PET bottling line has European roots

by Ben Miyares, editorial director, Packaging Strategies
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Earlier this year when the folks at Tetley USA Inc. in Shelton CT decided to give Snapple et al a run for the money in the U.S. market they turned to sister organization Tetley Canada Ltd. in Mississauga Ontario for packaging inspiration.

In Canada Tetley is the number one selling ready-to-drink (RTD) iced tea enjoying as much as 30% market share in some sections of the country. Back in the States however although the brand was one of the first RTD teas to hit the market it never has been much more than an also-ran in the field.

Tetley looked over the array of packages offered in the Canadian market (250-mL aseptic cartons 341-mL aluminum cans 473-mL glass bottles 1.89-L gabletop cartons and the newest a 2-L aseptically filled polyethylene terephthalate bottle) and decided to see if the PET bottle could duplicate its Canadian success in the States. Tetley introduced it in Ontario last year and retail sales of its teas in that bottle quickly rose to 11.6% of the RTD iced tea market. For its U.S. debut in selected East Coast markets the clear PET bottle was filled with lemon-flavored tea and given a new Iced Gold label that emphasizes the brand's use of spring water.

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As with the Tetley Canada product marketed north of the border Tetley USA's Iced Gold line is packed by A. Lassonde Inc. (Rougemont Quebec) on a pioneering aseptic filling line from Remy Equipement (Paris France). The 2-L bottle is similar in appearance to the one Lassonde has for some time used for its Fruité line of fruit drinks (shown). With some pride Jean Gattuso executive vice president and general manager at Lassonde points out that the company was the first in North America to have an aseptic filling line for plastic bottles. Lassonde has been running the line since 1987.

Since the RTD tea bottle doesn't have to stand up to the rigors of hot filling as do some of Lassonde's fruit juices the relatively thin-walled 2-L container weighs only 62 g vs. almost 70 g for the hot-fill version. The bottle is blowmolded by Emballage Duopac Packaging Inc. (La Valle Quebec Canada).

Virginia distiller sells PET-bottled vodka in Russia

Not long ago A. Smith Bowman (Fredericksburg VA) was a traditional Southern distillery focusing exclusively on the production and domestic marketing of Virginia Gentleman bourbon.

Today the distiller makes scotch gin vodka tequila rum Canadian whiskey bourbon and spring water. While sales of the spring water have been growing faster than liquor in the domestic market Bowman's international liquor sales have been surging-growing 11% a year for the last five years.

And in yet another break from tradition most of Bowman's production today is packed for international sales in clear lightweight break-resistant PET bottles.

At the heart of Bowman's international business are sales to Russia which appears to be a case of "carrying coals to Newcastle." It's because Bowman has been able to satisfy the Russian taste and demand for vodka while the country's old and inefficient production lines haven't been able to keep up with demand. Bowman entered the Russian market about five years ago offering both 80- and 190-proof vodka in clear PET bottles.

Specified and supplied by Smith Container Corp. (Atlanta GA) Bowman's vodka bottles are blown by Silgan Plastics Corp. (Chesterfield MO). For 80-proof vodkas Bowman uses a traditional long-neck 1-L bottle. For the 190-proof grain alcohol preferred by many Russians Bowman uses the same "stubby" style 1-L bottle as its spring water (shown).

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