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Amcor launch tiny Hot Fill PET for Health Shot Market

Amcor PET Packaging has created an industry first with the
introduction of a new and unique 2.5 ounce hot fill PET container.
Amcor ingenuity and engineering was required to create this
one-of-its-kind mini package that is dwarfed by its 20 ounce big
brother. The bottle, which is produced at Amcor’s state-of-the-art
facility in Nicholasville, Kentucky, is being used to launch Hormel
Health Labs new “healthy shot™” high protein healthcare beverage.

Amcor has long been the leader in hot fill engineering and the
foundation for development of this project was based on proprietary
technology that Amcor has developed over the years. Although the 2.5
ounce bottle is a relatively simple cylindrical shape, adapting
technology used in larger containers was not a straightforward
reduction process. Every size container and each design nuance impacts
PET performance and presents new challenges.

“As far as we know, there was no heat set container this small on the
market before,” said Amcor project engineer Kirk Maki. “Perhaps the
most difficult part was getting heat set properties into a bottle this
size. Vacuum control in hot filling and cooling is the other critical
issue, which also required considerable manipulation.”

Controlling the process in process control

From the start, Maki knew the standard process would require a change
so many hours of up-front testing and engineering was devoted to the
design. “We had to take a step back and determine how we were going to
get the process control we needed on a much smaller container. In
theory, 2 over 1 equates to 10 over 5, but in practice it is very
different.

“First, we had to modify our equipment and add specialty machine
controls. We had to downsize and modify the tooling to create a scaled
down version of how we would normally process the container in order to
drive heat set properties to a level high enough to prevent deformation
under the heat. We accomplished what we set out to do. The heat set
testing has come back at levels equal to or better than some of our
other larger heat set containers,” Maki said.

Maki acknowledged there were challenges with the overall bottle design
relating to vacuum control. Testing and calculations based on container
diameter were run up-front to ensure that specialty paneling wouldn’t
be needed. The paneling was fine when initial hot filling and cooling
trials were run, but “the panel rib design had issues. Nothing
critical, but we felt it just wasn’t quite right,” Maki said.

So the team continued the quest for perfection by modifying the rib
portion of the design. In the process, they developed a superbly smooth
area of labeling. “If you make a container that looks good with a wrap
label, it will look great in a shrink label,” Maki said.

Breaking the mold, literally

Maki said the mini bottle’s finish area added to the complexity of this
project. Whereas the standard finish recalls an earlier PET era, it is
not the kind of heat set finish one typically finds on a store shelf
today.

“When you have a relatively large 28 mm opening on a 2.5 ounce
container, compared to a 43 mm opening on top of 500 ml bottle, you
can’t simply transfer technology,” revealed Maki. “Although it is not
as light in weight as some newer designs, it has a versatile finish.
What allowed us to use it here is the fact that the bottle is small, so
there’s relatively little heat capacity.”

The closure itself is a standard design, borrowed from pharmaceutical
packaging for this beverage application. It also takes custom equipment
to fill these small bottles. Not many fillers are currently set up to
do it because there hasn’t been a demand for hot fill in bottles this
size… until now.

“We know it’s a little difficult to maintain the heat when filling
small containers while also maintaining throughput,” said Chris Curtis,
Amcor PET account manager, North East. “Most of the hot fill in the
industry has been with much larger containers.”

New healthcare beverage targets nutrition issues

Hormel Health Labs focuses primarily on specialty products for
hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. One of the primary
concerns in nursing homes is weight loss among aging patients who do
not consume enough protein. Many patients usually drink only half or
less of an 8 ounce milkshake type product that contains 9 grams of
protein. With the new Amcor PET bottle, Hormel can pack as much protein
as possible into a very concentrated package that is sized right for
patient consumption.

Dubbed “healthy shot”, the high powered fruit flavored drink being
introduced soon packs a full 12 grams of protein into those 2.5 ounces,
and no less than 24 grams into its double protein 2.5 formulation.

Amcor PET Packaging is the leading manufacturer of PET (polyethylene
terephthalate) plastic packaging for the global beverage, food and
non-food industries with 60 facilities in 12 countries. Its parent
company, Amcor Limited, offers a broad range of packaging solutions and
ranks as one of the top three packaging companies in the world. Amcor’s
extensive operations include 217 plants in 34 countries. It is
headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and, for the fiscal year ending
June 30, 2008, reported sales revenues of $8.3 billion (U.S.).

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