Since the 1940's Selah WA-based Tree Top packaged its apple juice and cider products in glass bottles. Despite the traditional appeal of glass warehouse clubs stocking Tree Top favored lighter-weight plastic to make it easier for consumers to carry the bottles. In early '94 Tree Top began to accommodate customer wishes. Initially it converted 1-gal bottles to heat-set stretch/blow-molded bottles of polyethylene terephthalate. A polypropylene bale handle was added to ease handling. The filled bottle weighs about 8 lb down from nearly 12 lb in glass. The switch to PET on 1/2-gal bottles was made last autumn. A pinch grip makes it easy for consumers to pick up and pour from this smaller bottle. The change has paid off handsomely most notably in the larger size where sufficient time has passed to make a viable comparison. "Our gallon sales have gone up 60%" says Jim Robbins Tree Top's director of quality assurance. "We've been able to pick up warehouse and club store business that we did not have before because of the PET package." The switch wasn't without its challenges. "We hot-fill at 185 degrees on one line at our Selah plant" Robbins explains. "We had to make sure there was a really good heat set to avoid deformed bottles. Capping also proved difficult with our 48-mm finish." Most vexing however was that "a closure and ethylene vinyl acetate liner combination didn't work as anticipated" he recalls. "EVA has a tendency to shrink around heat. Even though the liner was oversized to make up for the shrinkage and stay inside the cap properly it either moved or shrunk too much. In some instances it even fell into the product in which case we wound up with no seal on the product." This "false seal" led to extensive downtime to adjust capping equipment. It also created the potential for product spoilage as apple juice provides a good medium for mold and yeast growth. "We couldn't afford to ship any gallons that weren't sealed properly so we had to do a 100% product sort which is slow labor-intensive and costly" Robbins notes. To solve its dilemma Tree Top worked with Sun Coast Closures (Sarasota FL). Sun Coast recommended a 48-mm PP closure from Tri-Seal Intl. (Blauvelt NY). Tri-Seal's F-8268 liner combines a core of foamed PP and EVA copolymer to provide high heat resistance and hold the liner in place without distortion during hot filling. The closure added in mid-'95 also includes a breakaway band that provides tamper-evidence. The consistent seal quality of the new closure/liner combination eliminated the need for a crew of operators to conduct the product sort necessary for PET bottles using the earlier cap and liner. That provided a one-time labor savings of about $50.