A new line of premium alcoholic beverages in earth-friendly, resealable 200-mL pouches is already a winner, only a few weeks after their introduction. The pouches were introduced by Good Time Beverages at the 68th Annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Ameri
Good Times.jpgca Convention & Exposition held April 10-13 in Orlando, where they received a tremendous reception. "We were the product of the show," says president Robert Whyte. "We have firm commitments from 29 distributors from all over the U.S."
The first two products launched were Bob & Stacy's Premium Margarita and Big Barrel Brandy XO. Bob & Stacy's Premium Margarita is made with 30 proof, premium tequila, which the company says is 50 percent higher than many other pre-mixed, packaged cocktails. The 80 proof Big Barrel Brandy product is an XO level brandy, as opposed to either a VS or VSOP level. The cocktail products also will use only premium alcohols.
Observing that there is a lack of innovative drink packaging options in the marketplace, Whyte explains that he chose easy-open flexible pouches that are constructed of foil that is mostly post-consumer recycled aluminum alloy, covered with a thin internal plastic layer.
The pouches take up significantly less space than traditional cans or bottles, and each pouch has a free-flow, tamper-resistant cap that can be resealed for extended storage.
The packaging incorporates a high-oxygen barrier film that preserves flavor for one year unopened, and up to three months after initial opening, when it has been resealed with the original cap. The drinks can be poured into other beverage receptacles or enjoyed straight from the pouch.
Unique rotary filler/capper
Good Time Beverages has installed a tandem, rotary, index filler/capper manufactured by Innovative Machine Engineering (IME) to run the pouches at its new plant in Downey, CA. "There were no acceptable fillers on the market," says Whyte, "so we had this machine built to meet our requirements."
IME is a custom-machine builder that specializes in equipment for unusual and/or unique applications. "This was a challenging
GT 1.jpgproject," says IME president Ron Ungar. "The Good Time machine is required to be explosion-proof (XP) because they are running alcoholic beverages, so we built it with no electric components. Everything is pneumatic."
The intermittent-motion monobloc style machine runs two pouches per index. "Many of the main pneumatic
components are supplied by Festo Corp.," says Ungar. "They are more reliable, and their equipment is among the best available. For example, we use their newest indexer for our 32-in.-dia main table, and it has an accuracy of a few thousands of an inch repeatability per index."
The 200-mL pouches, which are produced outside of the U.S., are manually loaded into two inclined chutes that deliver them down to the machine. Each time the machine stops, two pouches are mechanically placed into slots in the circular table. Flats on the necks of the pouches fit into the slots so the pouches can't twist during the following operations. This is especially important during the screw capping operation, says Ungar.
Next the product is filled. Sensors beneath the table detect the pouches, and a pouch must be present to initiate the filling operation. Similar sensors are installed at the gassing and capping stations, and if a pouch is missing at any point, the mechanism will not operate at that particular station.
The fill nozzles descend into the two pouches, and two piston fillers dispense the product. The pistons have a volume control and also have a speed control that adjusts the speed of the piston movement to prevent splashing as the product enters the pouch. When filling is complete, the nozzles rise out of the pouch.
After filling, nitrogen is injected into the pouches with diving nozzles similar to filling. Next is the capping operation. A rotating sorter mounted above the main machine orients the caps properly and they travel down two tracks to spring-loaded escapements. The caps are picked off by the pouches, on de
GT 3.jpgmand, as they pass beneath, after which the pouches reach the tightening area. Chucks descend and tighten the caps to a preset torque, which can be adjusted as required. At the last station, arms push the pouches down a chute to a bin and they are taken to the pack-off area.
Some challenging aspects
"IME did a great job for us, and Ron has been tremendous to work with," says Whyte. "We had some unusual problems, and he solved all of them. For example, the mixed cocktails foam when they are filled, and Ron had to overcome that."
Good Time Beverages' flexible pouches are lightweight and have a compact profile, ideal for space-saving storage and shipment. "Our pouch is only 10 percent of the weight of an equivalent PET bottle," says Whyte, "and it is made primarily of recycled aluminum covered with a thin layer of poly. The pouches are 100 percent BPA-free and have excellent stand-up stability due to the strong film structure and the single gusset construction at the bottom of the pouch."
Good Time Beverages already has plans to release five more cocktail varietals: Cosmopolitan, Long Island Iced Tea, Apple Martini, Triple Trouble Bubble and Bob & Stacy's Sugar Free Margarita. The company has additional machines on order to meet increasing demand.
Innovative Machine Engineering, 805-642-3555. www.ime-co.net
Festo Corp., 800/993-3786. www.festo.com/us
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