Functionality rules! The exclamation rings true for an extrusion/blow-molded polypropylene bottle used for Finest Call brand cocktail mixes used in bars, restaurants and other foodservice institutions. Packager American Beverage Marketers enlisted distributor Ryco Packaging (Omaha, NE) for the bottle, as well as the functional closure and label. At its 33rd annual convention held last month, the National Assn. of Container Distributors awarded Ryco the Bernard M. Seid Best of Show Award for the Finest Call bottle. NACD cited the bottle's contact clarity, fill capability, pourability, brand identification, ease of handling and product image among the factors that merited the top award. The competition included more than 220 total entries. NACD distributed gold, silver and bronze awards within seven categories: food, cosmetics/personal care, pet and vet, drug and pharmaceutical, household chemical, general industrial, and automotive. Doubles sales, shelf life But it was the Finest Call bottle that won the top prize. American Beverage Marketers' president George Wagner calls it "a leading-edge package. "We've introduced about a dozen mix varieties since we launched Finest Call nationwide early last year. And the new bottle has doubled our on-premise mix sales compared to an earlier foodservice/on-premise product that was filled into high-density polyethylene containers," he notes. "The previous containers just didn't have the appeal or the shelf life we wanted." To introduce Finest Call in a bottle with more appeal and longer shelf life, ABM solicited Ryco's expertise. "We've worked with Ryco for years on different projects," Wagner explains. "For Finest Call, Ryco provided us with a bottle made from a polypropylene resin that better withstands hot-filling than our prior HDPE bottle. We can't discuss the specific temperature differences, but we're now able to fill the product at hotter temperatures than we were previously. The hotter the fill, the better the bacteria kill." The change means Finest Call now has a one-year shelf life, "six months more than our previous bottle," he notes. User friendly Royal Plastics (Kansas City, KS) molds the 68-g Finest Call bottle, which has an average wall thickness of .040 in. and a 38-mm finish. The bottle is molded from Quantum Chemical's (Cincinnati, OH) 7352 KF PP resin. "We tested about 10 different polypropylene resins to find the best mix of contact clarity and heat resistance for the bottle," notes Ryco vice president Mark Davis. "And Quantum's resin best fit the needs of American Beverage Marketers." Molded into the bottle is a stylized Finest Call logo, designed by ABM, Ryco and Graphik Ink (Louisville, KY). The logo is repeated on a neck label and outer shipping case to enhance brand recognition. Wagner says graphics carry weight in marketing the product to prospective foodservice accounts, just as they do in retail. "The consistency of design among the bottle, the label and the case is important in making the sale to the bar manager because it carries a look of quality." Functional label, closure While graphics provide sales punch, the bottle's functionality also makes it a winner. Not only does the bottle fit nicely into bar wells, it's also easy to handle. In sometimes wet environments, handling is a concern. The Finest Call bottle's long neck and easy-grip label and closure create a "non-slip" container, according to Wagner. Topping the bottle is a custom closure from Hi-Tech Mold And Tool (Louisville, KY). Hi-Tech injection-molds the custom PP closure. ABM and Hi-Tech designed the specialized closure with a small ledge that "serves as an essential non-slip bottle element," says Wagner. The closure also includes a reclosable hinge that stays out of the way during pouring. This hinge protrudes about an inch above the mouth of the bottle. An air vent that runs parallel to the opening helps prevent "glugging" during pouring. When the bottle is first opened, the user twists open the closure to remove and discard an inner liner. Twisting open the closure gently tears a perforated area on the wraparound neck label supplied by Gamse Lithographing (Baltimore, MD). The cut-and-stacked paper labels are printed via lithography in eight colors. Gamse then embosses the Finest Call logo into the printed label. Afterwards, it perforates the label via a steel-rule process that leaves intact the handsome label. According to ABM's Wagner, the embossed logo "is another key element that prevents bottle slippage." The specialty label is applied with a Krones (Franklin, WI) Universella labeler, added in early '95 to help launch the product. Capped bottles convey into the labeler through an infeed worm and starwheel. Each bottle is delivered onto a base platform. The bottles revolve in place as they're held securely between this base and an overhead centering bell. The leading label from a magazine is removed by an oscillating pallet containing a thin layer of cold glue, then transferred to the PP bottle by a mechanical gripper cylinder. Brushes and sponge rollers wipe down the label. The bottle then exits via a discharge starwheel. According to Krones, ABM's Universella is unique in that its centering bells are custom-built. This is necessary not only because the Finest Call closure protrudes so high, but because the easy-grip ledge diameter exceeds that of the rest of the closure. As the bell descends, the protruding top fits within a hollowed-out area of the bell. The bell stops once it contacts the closure's ledge. Wagner says the labeler "is the only machine we added to our filling line to produce the new product." Existing machinery is used to air clean, fill and cap Finest Call bottles on the same line ABM uses to fill its retail mix bottles. Downstream, extra precaution is necessary to protect the custom closures during distribution. To do the trick, Willamette Industries (Portland, OR), provides a 200#-test, C-flute corrugated shipper with a 200#-test, C-flute inner divider that stands about 1/2" taller than the Finest Call bottles. The shipper case holds 12 bottles, each within a cell of the divider. Cases are stacked five-high and stretch-wrapped for distribution. Additional winners include: FOOD Gold: Richards Packaging (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) won the award for a 375-mL glass wine bottle that's clad in a full-body polyvinyl chloride shrink label. Colorful reverse printing protects labels from damage, and lends a distinguished look to the product, which is marketed by DuMont Vins & Spiritueux of Rougemont, Quebec, Canada. Silver: The glass bottle for award-winning Gourmet Caesar Dressing, marketed by Mary Jane's Dressing, Tacoma, WA, won the silver award for Packaging West (Aurora, CO). The fine wine look is capped off with a black closure and matching neck band. Bronze: A glass bottle for a line of onion, celery, dill, or garlic juices marketed by Howard Foods, Inc., Danvers, MA, won this award for distributor Kaufman Container (Cleveland, OH). The custom mold produces a bottle with a sprinkler finish that is a better dispensing orifice than the plastic plug in the package used previously. Another improvement is the addition of a breakaway tamper-evident closure. COSMETICS Gold: Framesi USA of Coraopolis, PA, challenged its NACD distributor to supply a packaging system that would minimize cross-contamination, reduce product dryout and allow for controlled dispensing of Biogenol® texture definition conditioning cream gel. The solution presented by W. Braun Co. (Chicago, IL) walked off with the gold award in the category. To use this unique dispensing jar, the consumer rotates a disc to raise a threaded piston, thus controlling the amount of product dispensed and preventing air from entering the jar. Most important, the hairdresser need not dip his/her fingers into the jar, thus minimizing cross contamination. The double-walled jar is polypropylene inside and polystyrene outside. Silver: W. Braun Co. helped Los Angeles-based California Suncare marry two bottles for its Unison product, which incorporates both a tanning lotion and a tablet supplement. A small vinyl container holds 18 tablets. It snaps into place between the "fork" at the top of the 8-oz lotion bottle, also made of vinyl. Both bottles can be dispensed with the two containers either snapped together or separated. Finally, the lotion bottle has an oval dispensing closure that enables the package to stand on the cap. Bronze: When a lotion not only moisturizes but claims to reduce cellulite and rejuvenate the skin, it needs a package as special as its properties. Forever Young from Life Plus of Batesville, AR, is such a lotion, and it's packaged in an award winner from distributor Zuckerman-Honickman (King of Prussia, PA). Not only is it shapely, it sports a gold cap, gold hot stamping on the front and gold screen printing on the back. It's made of PVC, holds 6.7 oz, and is frosted through a process that gives it its look and feel. PET & VET Gold: W. Braun won again for the 12-oz bottle in which Hartz Mountain Industries, Secaucus, NJ, markets its Rid Flea product. Hartz' previous bottle had a pinch waist that limited labeling possibilities. The new bottle's straight-sided oval provides ease of labeling and a wider area for the front and back body labels. Also, the 28/415 neck size provides filling efficiencies that a 24/415 neck, more commonly found on 12-oz bottles, does not. A mix of clear and pigmented bottles make up the 12-shampoo Hartz line. Silver: Zuckerman-Honickman's handled PET bottle for Pond Care Pond Food makes this product, marketed by Chalfont, PA-based Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, stand out from competitors' boxes and bags. Wide mouth means easy pouring and bright label grabs attention. Bronze: Picking up this award was Smith Container Corp. (Atlanta, GA) for Stone Mountain, GA-based Seachem Laboratories' Tanganyika Buffer, a granular aquarium maintenance product that makes water suitable for a family of fish known as "cichlids." The 10-oz custom PVC wide-mouth jar is clear and has the Seachem name embossed in its bottom plate. The indented label panel carries a full-color p-s label showing a cichlid fish. A 58-mm polypropylene closure tops the jar. The package can be used for other Seachem products simply by changing labels, so Seachem can place many products of their line in the same basic package to provide a family look. DRUG & PHARMACEUTICAL Gold: A range of styrene vials for Shoppers Drug Mart, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, won for Richards Packaging. This is actually a redesign to improve handling ease for both pharmacist and consumer. Also, the top of the vial was designed to allow druggists to add their name or logo. Silver: Winning was a 150-cc wide-mouth green glass bottle from distributor Smith Container for General Nutrition Products' PhytoNutramins. The custom bottle was chosen to differentiate the premium product from others. Bronze: The winner was a PVC container whose squared shape, decorated with an appealing and colorful label, provides powerful shelf impact for a line of supplements marketed by the Holista Health Corp. of Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Distributed by Richards Packaging, the package also has a double tamper-evident feature: A safety seal is inside the closure and a PVC shrink band covers the outside. NOVELTY Gold: An important feature of the Paper Paint Pen, marketed by Tulip Products of Natick, MA, is that the threaded closure was designed so the consumer could set the bottle standing upright and keep the flow of paint accessible. Also, four different tips that fit into the threaded closure let the user apply the paint, used for decorating cards, gift bags, and posters. The low-density PE container is distributed by I. Andler & Sons (Everett, MA). Silver: Glitterex Corp. of Cranford, NJ, had gone from paperboard to PVC tubes but still wasn't happy with the package for its glitter product. Distributor O. Berk Co. (Union, NJ) provided a solution. A unique sliding base was designed to be inserted into the mold to provide the flexibility to manufacture a range of bottle sizes without requiring a new mold for each. A snug friction-fit cap that features a dual-purpose shaker and easy-pour spout was selected for ease of use. By keeping a constant, same-size interior diameter, a single friction-fit cap could be kept in inventory for all bottle sizes. Bronze: An HDPE bottle from Caliber Packaging (Cerritos, CA) holds 440 g of Faster Plaster, marketed by Plaid Enterprises of Norcross, GA. Caliber also supplied the measuring scoop, which is held in place by a colorful full-body shrink label. Craftspeople simply remove the scoop, add water to the bottle, shake for two minutes, and pour from the dispensing closure. The container is suitable for reuse. HOUSEHOLD Gold: For grout cleaner and grout sealer marketed by Miracle Seal of Irwindale, CA, Caliber Packaging provided a 6-oz special oval in PVC with an unusual closure that is a customized brush assembled on a push/pull closure. The grout cleaner has stiff bristles with a straight cut for cleaning while the sealer has soft bristles with a tapered cut for sealing. Silver: Continental Glass and Plastic (Chicago, IL) won with a twin-neck HDPE container for a holding tank treatment from Monsanto Enviro-Chem, St. Louis, MO. The consumer dispenses the exact amount required into the measuring section of the bottle, which should give the container a user-friendly competitive advantage. Also in the product line are a 32-oz refill bottle and a 64-oz bulk container. Bronze: Consolidated Coatings Corp., Delta, British Columbia, Canada, markets Woodpal stripping and brightening system, which restores wood to its original appearance, in two plastic bottles from Richards Packaging. The smaller one fits snugly into an indentation molded into the larger container. A clear sleeve label helps hold the smaller bottle in place. GENERAL INDUSTRIAL Gold: All-Pak (Bridgeville, PA) supplies an award-winning HDPE Tip'N Pour chambered bottle for a concentrated bactericide and fungicide marketed by Reckitt & Colman of Aurora, Ontario, Canada. The product is used in the metal cutting industry. The Tip'N Pour bottle was selected to provide a self-contained method of dispensing the concentrate in its prescribed dosages. It's especially important because contact with human skin is not recommended. The product is identified by a varnished sleeve label, a cost-effective means of preserving the integrity of the instructional and precautionary statements. Silver: World Packaging/America Inc. of New Hope, PA, markets its lubricant product in a pocket-sized acetate tube with a pin nozzle and cover sourced by O. Berk Co. Lightweight, accurate, and portable, the package was specified to meet the customer's very specific need to reach into tiny spaces. Offset printing onto formed tubes delivers maximum label exposure. Bronze: Western Plastics (Phoenix, AZ) is the distributor of two HDPE containers used in the Texaco Quality Assurance Program out of Cleveland, OH. The kit includes a white sample bottle and identification information to be returned in the black self-addressed mailer that is screen-printed with a mailing label approved by the U.S. Postal Service. The unlimited multi-use nature of the mailer portion of the kit eliminates the need for additional containers and paper labels.