Described as a “luxury artesian mineral water,” London-based NEUE Water was conceived by founder Michael Lowers, who, upon consulting for a luxury fashion brand, noticed a problem for the woman visiting the atelier studio: The bottled water on offer didn’t fit their handbag. Looking further, he noticed that nothing on the market did, and that is where the idea for NEUE Water was born.
Lowers’ vision was to create a luxury bottled water brand that would cater to today’s on-the-go lifestyle while enhancing the style and sustainability of traditional water bottles. Of particular importance to Lowers was that the bottle use 100% recycled PET and be fully recyclable.
“The case for using 100% rPET for our bottles is incontrovertible,” says Lowers. “The material produces 10-times fewer carbon emissions than aluminum and 20-times fewer than glass, as natural resources are not needed to make the 100% rPET. Using rPET also directly reduces plastic pollution that would otherwise end up in landfills and oceans. In addition, using the material is a core part of the circular economy around plastic. It’s also an important opportunity to use the existing 9 billion metric tons—and growing—of single-use plastic pollution globally, which needs to be utilized rather than left to landfills.”
|Read related story on Coca-Cola’s 100% rPET packaging, “Coca-Cola Kicks Off Expanded rPET Bottle Reach with Recycling Campaign.”|
Other requirements for the bottle were that it would have a convex front panel that would allow the label, adhered to the back of the bottle with the graphics facing inwards, to be viewed through the bottle and water without any distortion, as well as a flat, ergonomic shape that would enable it to fit easily into small spaces such as crossbody bags, back pockets, and seat-back storage on trains and planes.
Although Lowers’ requirements seem straightforward, the combination of material and shape presented a challenge. While rPET offers the necessary properties to develop a transparent and recyclable bottle, the material’s strength and stiffness create considerable resistance to force, making it difficult to create a distinctive bottle shape through the traditional injection stretch blow-molding (ISBM) process.
To solve this design and manufacturing challenge, Lowers worked with Berry Agile Solutions, a new division of Berry Global that offers short lead times and low minimum order quantities. According to Berry Global Product Line Director Joe Horton, by using its global in-house material science, design, and manufacturing expertise, Berry Agile Solutions was able to successfully adapt ISBM technology to accommodate the bottle design for NEUE Water.
“Our technical team understands the properties of PET and PCR and designed the preform to enable this difficult shape to be properly manufactured within the ISBM process to enable correct distribution of the polymer,” says Horton. “The shape was difficult due to the stretch-blow ratio between the neck and the width of the bottle. As the bottle is relatively shallow, front to back, we had to correctly stretch and blow the bottle while also getting the right balance of magnifying effect on the front panel, which can happen when too much material freezes off on the front panels. Too much magnification would have significantly reduced the ease of reading the label, which is positioned at the back and designed to be read through the bottle. This was achieved by using high ovalization on the preform.” Ovalization occurs when the circular finish of a preform becomes slightly or moderately oval in shape due to high temperature or compressive forces.
The resulting 500-mL bottle sports a flask-like shape with an uninterrupted convex window on one side that magnifies the label area. The bottle uses Multi-Color Corp.’s RecycLABEL clear #11581 and RecycLABEL white #11582 biaxially oriented polypropylene labels, which are specifically designed to be fully removable in one piece from the hot washing solution during the PET recycling process.
|Read about the popularity of bottled water in this related article, “Bottled Water Continues to Make a Splash.”|
The label artwork is an intrinsic part of the premium experience, as it features different artist-designed collections that change with each fashion season. Says Lowers, “We wanted it [the bottle] to be an accessory people coveted because it looked great, as well as distinctively standing out on shelf.”
Within a week of NEUE Water’s launch in September 2022 in U.K.’s Harrods department store, the new water brand sold out and since then has continued to receive an overwhelmingly positive response. “People seem to love the functionality and the uniqueness of the designs,” says Lowers. “Customers tell us they don’t like to throw the bottles out and end up using them for months, which is great to hear. As you will see on the labels, we actually encourage customers to reuse the bottles before recycling, which is another first.” PW