American Beverage Marketers has for years been a forerunner when it comes to bottle design and filling techniques. Its new pinch-grip plastic beverage bottle isn't revolutionary but is part of a trend to provide consumer convenience. In January the New Albany IN firm moved away from glass to a shapelier and lighter bottle made of polyethylene terephthalate for its Master® of Mixes line. The bottles also received a label redesign and a new closure.
The five flavors of 1.75-L cocktail mixers have an 18-month shelf life slightly less than the previous glass bottle and retail for less than $6.
"When you get to big sizes like what we're using glass is difficult because it's so heavy" says George Wagner president of ABM. The new PET bottle weighs just 85 g 723 g less than the glass version it replaced.
The stock pinch-grip PET bottle is injection/stretch blow-molded by Pretium Packaging (Hermann MO). "Pinch-grip is standard in the liquor industry and we are in the liquor industry in an indirect way" Wagner says. "We sell in liquor stores and you mix our product with liquor."
With the exception of the redesigned Bloody Mary mixes the new front label uses the same graphics as did the previous one but the paper moved up to 50# semigloss with a UV coating from Avery Dennison's Fasson Div. (Painesville OH). Another change: The label is now pressure-sensitive rather than hot-glue-applied because the speeds of application are much quicker with p-s labels. It's printed in seven or eight colors by The Stratus Group (Hamilton OH) via a process Stratus calls a "hybrid" of flexography and rotary letterpress. This printing process involves a unique print station in which Stratus uses an ink viscosity similar to rotary letterpress and an anilox roll similar to what is used in flexography.
Stratus also replaced the bronzing done on the previous label with gold foil hot stamping. A new p-s paper neck label replaces a polyvinyl chloride shrink band and the back label has new copy including instructions and illustrations detailing product use. Neck and back labels are also from Stratus.
The labels are applied at ABM's New Albany IN plant. The company bought a new machine for this application a Quadrel (Mentor OH) 540/9T rotary labeler purchased through RK Equipment (Cincinnati OH). It runs at speeds to nearly 100 labels/min.
Also new is a threaded closure with a breakaway tamper-evident band from Captive Plastics (Piscataway NJ). It's injection-molded of high-density PE. Wagner says that because this particular closure is typically used for liquor bottles it's longer vertically to make room for a pouring fitment customarily placed on liquor bottles. Wagner didn't want the Master of Mixes bottles to have this fitment because it would impede the pour flow of its thicker liquids particularly the Bloody Mary mix.
Wagner specified an induction seal membrane that has a thick pulp attached to it in order to fill up the extra vertical space in the cap. Without the thick liner Wagner says the cap could overtorque and sit crooked. There was no need to buy an induction sealer because ABM had already purchased one a Model 2221-W from Pillar Technologies (Hartland WI) for its Finest Call(TM) brand of mixers (see Packaging World June '97 p. 58 or www.packworld. com/go/finestcall). The Master of Mixes line is filled on the same line as Finest Call.
Because little new equipment was required this package redesign didn't break the bank for ABM. Wagner says that although the new labels are more expensive than those they replaced the new labeling machine can be used for other bottles. Plus the switch to PET actually saves money.
"Glass is more expensive than PET and that's simply because of supply and demand" he says. Wagner says that a glass bottle as large as the one they were using is not in demand and it became almost a specialty item. On the other hand the popular pinch-grip PET bottles are produced in high volume which drives cost down.
He estimates the PET bottle currently used costs about 10% less than the previous glass version. Wagner adds that the new bottle has increased product sales which has allowed for a return on investment of only one year for the new labeling machine.