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Article | June 30, 2003
Not all sweetener packs are created Equal
New container and closure let consumers use Equal’s no-calorie sweetener by the Spoonful.
An ergonomic easy-grip polypropylene bottle with a dual-flap closure allows consumers to either pour or spoon out Merisant’s new 4-oz Equal Spoonful no-calorie sweetener.
Introduced in February the pack permits consumers to use Equal measure-for-measure for cooking and baking as they would sugar. A previous Equal powder product was concentrated and Spoonful now replaces it.
The hourglass-shaped PP container is extrusion blow-molded by Captive Plastics. “We took several designs to [consumer] focus groups and this is the one they preferred” explains Pat O’Connor manager of packaging development for Chicago-based Merisant.
He notes that PP is also used for a 2-oz package “sold in a more traditional restaurant sugar-shaker design with fluted sidewalls. When that size was introduced many years ago it was first in a glass container then in PET.” O’Connor says there are economic advantages for using PP as opposed to PET even if it means giving up PET’s clarity.
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“Polypropylene offers good contact clarity” says O’Connor. “For Spoonful we use a ‘sight glass’ in the sleeve label design that lets consumers see the product level through a sleeve label. We don’t really need the clarity of PET because the container is going to be filled with powder.”
Of course the full-body shrink-sleeve label wraps around the entire container anyway. The 2-mil polyvinyl chloride sleeve label is printed gravure in six colors by CCL Label. Completing the package is an injection-molded PP closure from Gateway Plastics. Side “tabs” on the 89-mm stock closure enable users to flip open one side for access to a tear-shaped opening for easy pouring; the other side’s wide opening allows product to be withdrawn by the spoonful. An induction-sealed liner provides tamper evidence and assists with shelf life.
Spoonful is filled at Merisant’s plant in Manteno IL at “speeds between 80 and 100 containers per minute” says Santiago Lopez the company’s senior project engineer.
O’Connor says the new 4-oz product is filled on the same line as the 2-oz size. “Spoonful is a different size shape and holds a different product volume” he explains “so what we did was make an investment in change parts to accommodate the differences.”
The only equipment change necessary he says “was a switch from a straight-line capper to a rotary chuck-style capper. The straight-line capper used some compression that squeezed the bottle slightly. Because we lost some rigidity going to PP from PET that would have made it difficult to cap the new container.
“So we purchased a rebuilt Consolidated capper” from Change Parts O’Connor continues. “They’re a packaging equipment rebuilder and Consolidated’s cappers are well-known and come with an excellent reputation.”
Equal Spoonful can be used for five years “though we [code it] as having a three-year shelf life” says Maria Brennan Merisant’s North America supply chain director.
Consumers may be most familiar with Equal’s blue paper packet of sugar substitute but they’re embracing the new container as well. The $3.99 Equal Spoonful product “is now in a multitude of channels and is exceeding sales objectives” concludes Jane Boyce the company’s vice president of marketing.
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