New Tool: PMMI ProSource
Check out our packaging and processing solutions finder, PMMI ProSource.

EAS and partners show container dexterity

Five new PET bottles for nutrition supplements were created for EAS in just weeks to meet a tight timetable.

The two keg-shaped bottles and two of the three sizes of the barbell bottle shape were used to introduce 20 new EAS products ear
The two keg-shaped bottles and two of the three sizes of the barbell bottle shape were used to introduce 20 new EAS products ear

Exceptional cooperation among several suppliers allowed EAS to introduce 20 new products at a trade show in patented, new custom containers after just 12 weeks!

Going from concept drawings to finished containers was achieved by an alliance of designer Kornick Lindsay, blow molder Alpha Packaging, distributor Ryco Packaging, tooling builder R&D Tool and Engineering, and custom color supplier Holland Colours Americas.

“I was contacted by distributor Ryco Packaging in December, about some new bottle designs that might be appropriate in our industry,” recalls Roger Ulane, vice president of materials and sourcing at Golden, CO-based EAS. “So Alpha Packaging, Joe Kornick, and Ryco presented the designs to our marketing and product development people, and we were definitely interested.”

Over the course of a week to ten days, the designs were tweaked to meet EAS’ needs. Finished drawings were ready the week before Christmas. “I made a presentation to our senior management for the capital expenditures and got approval within just a couple of days,” Ulane says. “That’s our style here; we’re extremely fast to market” (see sidebar, p. 96).

Alpha has the exclusive license to make these containers, and EAS has an exclusive license to use the designs that include the EAS logo molded into the bottles.

The move to custom packaging is intended to generate differentiation on retail shelves and to reinforce EAS’ premium product status, says Ulane. “They also provide protection against knock-offs.”

Ulane says EAS had its first bottles by mid-February, with the balance coming in mid-March. But prototypes of those bottles were available for the show.

“The key to this project was that we wanted to introduce the new products and packaging at the Natural Products Expo West that was held in early March in Anaheim,” he says. “If we hadn’t made this timeline, the whole project—some 23 SKUs—would move back six months.”

In the interim, the team changed the designs to meet EAS needs and to accommodate mold restrictions. Then they built prototype molds, went through the entire approval processes, built finished molds, and went into production. In total, EAS received five new bottles: 250-cc and 50-cc keg-style bottles for EAS’ new DynamX products; and 300-cc, 1귔-cc, and 3ꯠ-cc bottles in a barbell shape for its revamped High-Performance line of products for semi-professional and serious athletes, weight trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

More complex than expected

To achieve the custom design and color, PET was the logical choice of resin. But making the new designs a reality presented some real challenges beyond the tight timetable. Alpha turned to Holland Colours to provide a special colorant to match the color EAS had selected.

Alpha’s library of preforms was used for the two sizes of keg bottles, saving considerable development time and effort. However, everything below the neck was a challenge for Alpha’s tooling team because EAS’ complex logo is engraved around the shoulder. And that can make it difficult to remove bottles from molds.

By far the greatest challenge was the two large barbell containers because PET is rarely used for bottles with neck finishes as wide as 89 mm and 110 mm. R&D Tool and Engineering was brought in to develop the tooling for these challenging wide-mouth containers.

“This project required real innovation from a tooling perspective,” says Dave Spence, Alpha president. “We approached it with a team effort.” That included full use of Alpha’s in-house tool shop for blow molds to use in concert with R&D’s tools for injection molding of preforms and the wide-mouth container blow molds.

Additionally, Alpha had to make some modifications on the shoulders of the large containers to be able to get them to eject from the blow molder, says Roy Allen, Alpha’s director of plant operations. And because of the sizes of the two large barbell containers, Alpha purchased a new injection/stretch blow molder, a Model 500-150 from Aoki, to augment a rebuilt Aoki molder in place, says Allen.

“Those are the largest PET bottles we’ve ever made,” explains Carol McLerran, Alpha director of marketing. “So instead of starting on a project that was simpler, our first jobs were complex, with engravings, indentations, and squaring off corners. There’s nothing like being an overachiever on the first big job!”

Ryco handles logistics

From early on, Ryco’s Gary Schingeck was involved to help EAS develop an appropriate distribution plan for the company’s network of copackers.

“Working as a team with Alpha and EAS, we were able to line up locations to warehouse the bottles near the six copackers that would be doing the packaging,” Schingeck says. “Distribution is still in its infancy on these containers, but we’ll have the ability to move containers around to different warehouses to meet production schedules.” Having Ryco manage the distribution chain means EAS can simply make one phone call to coordinate having the containers where they’re needed.

And that “need” has outstripped even EAS’ optimistic expectations. Ulane says buyers from the nutrition supplement retailers and chain drug stores went “nutzo” over the new designs and consumers have, too. Sales of the products in the new packages have ranged from 10% up to 300% over EAS’ forecasts, Ulane reports.

“This was a best-case scenario,” Ulane concludes. “We needed all the suppliers to come together at the onset of the project to commit to a lead time that was far shorter than the industry standard. Alpha met every deadline in the process. We knew if our suppliers would meet their deadlines, we would meet ours.”

See sidebar to this article: Designing for a market

See sidebar to this article: How EAS cuts time

Special Report: Track & Trace
Discover new tools to approach the supply chain that allow you to leverage your data, see real-time visibility, and forecast future sales. You’ll also learn about KH Hive, an in-house digital demand planning tool that Kraft Heinz created to help the company realize its goals, forecasting sales expectation down to the SKU level, location level, and daily level.
Read More
Special Report: Track & Trace
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility
In this eBook, you’ll learn how to guard against the traps that CPGs sometimes inadvertently set for themselves when implementing robotics that lead to automation “brittleness.”
Read More
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility