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Vittel taps foodservice markets in Europe, U.S.

French mineral water bottler fills unusual in-mold-labeled thermoformed cup and lid for McDonald's outlets. Vittel also fills PET and glass bottles that are exported to the U.S. foodservice market.
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Vitality is a word used often by Perrier Vittel to market its Vittel mineral water which emanates from a hydrothermal basin in the Vosges mountains in France. Equally vital and eye-catching are the polyethylene terephthalate and glass containers Vittel fills and sells to foodservice accounts in Europe and the U.S. A blue-tinted thermoformed oval cup and lid with the McDonald's logo on its friction-fitting lid (bottom right) caught the eye of Packaging World editors at Pack Expo West in Las Vegas and Worldwide Food Expo 97 in Chicago. This cup of Vittel water was introduced to 500 McDonald's outlets in France last year. Standing just over 4" high the PET container weighs 11.2 g including its lid and two in-mold labels. The cups are thermoformed filled and sealed on an Erca-Formseal EF 400 machine made in France and distributed in the U.S. by Autoprod (Clearwater FL). Using eight-up tooling in a 2x4 configuration the machine cycles 23 times/min producing 184 finished containers/min. Each cup holds 33 cL (about 11 oz) of water. "The cup was developed in conjunction with McDonald's and introduced in the spring of '96" says Philippe Riffi marketing manager for The Perrier Group of America. "McDonald's was looking for a monomaterial container to replace the previous polyvinyl chloride package with foil lid." He says the water cups are sold in France Belgium and Luxembourg. According to Vittel's public relations agency McDonald's prices the water at 6.5 francs (about $1.14 U.S.). At the Vittel France plant the process begins as PET sheetstock believed to come from Adriaplast in France unwinds through a gripper infeed "table" that precisely delivers it to a heating box where temperature-regulated contact plates warm the material. Male and female tooling is used to form the unusually deep cups within the molds. As this occurs the four-color printed in-mold paper label is then applied around the top section of the cup. The cup is tapered with a narrow base ascending into a wider top. Mineral water is then filled into the eight cups. From a separate unwind the PET lidstock is heated formed and in-mold-labeled. The lidding web unwinds and is sealed to the base web before cups are punched out of the web. U.S. redesigns At the same plant in Vittel France that makes the cups for McDonald's the company also produces 33 cL- 1/2-L and 1.5-L PET bottles redesigned primarily for U.S. foodservice markets. Riffi says preforms are injection-molded using equipment from Husky (Bolton Ontario Canada). Bottles are blown on machinery from Sidel (Norcross GA). "The bottles have been redesigned and on the U.S. market for two months" he says. "The 1.5-liter bottle is slightly taller with a richer darker blue tint than our previous bottles. We've also included two side grips to make the bottle easier to grab and pour from." While the 1.5-L size is marketed mainly for retail the two smaller sizes are exclusively sold to foodservice accounts. The Vittel brand name on the rectangular paper labels for all three bottles reads bottom to top as opposed to left to right to help create a family look for the Vittel brands. "In the past we didn't have full synergy among our labels but we've made changes so that we now have one unique identity for the Vittel brand worldwide. We describe our label and our marketing positioning with three words: Vittel vitality and verticality" says Riffi. Also new are 1- and 1.5-L nonreturnable glass bottles for U.S. foodservice markets. Manufacturing is outsourced by Vittel for these bottles. They're filled and sold to "white tablecloth restaurants" he says. "We've retained the same basic bottle shape as our previous glass bottles but they've been redesigned with an unusual V mark molded in which symbolizes the V for Vittel and resembles water coming out of a spring. We've also added high-quality twist-on metal caps with a plastic liner [that provide tamper-evidence]."

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