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Clear PET lets witch hazel shine

When T.N. Dickinson, a Baptist minister who had made a fortune in Civil War uniforms, began brewing and distributing witch hazel extract in eastern Connecticut back in the 1870s, he never could have imagined the astringent product would still be used as widely as it is more than 130 years later. Today, Dickinson Brands' witch hazel astringent, which is helpful in treating minor cuts, scrapes and insect bites, remains the category's premier brand. Distilled from an American shrub that grows throughout the northeastern U.S., witch hazel was used originally to treat sore muscles, burns and other maladies. Dickinson's evolution from glass to plastic containers began originally with the adoption of vinyl bottles some time ago, but the company says those bottles tended to discolor over time. The East Hampton, CT-based company then moved on to polyethylene terephthalate containers that ended up varying in wall thickness. The problems ended with all-new PET bottles produced by Novapak Corp. (www.pvcc.com) in 8- and 16-oz sizes. The latest versions provide extreme clarity, durability, a light weight and cost-effectiveness, states Curt Strong, vp of Dickinson Brands, which distributes and markets the T.N. Dickinson's line of medicine cabinet essentials. Strong says that plastic bottles are preferable for their transparency, which connotes product purity and puncture-resistance, though not all measure up to the company's expectations. "We found that PET bottles from Novapak had the clarity, color consistency and strength we wanted," he adds.

Meeting filling-line requirements can also be critical to PET bottle success, Strong points out. "We also redesigned the packaging with a fresh, streamlined appearance," he says. "Many loyal customers expressed approval of our new packaging design. So we had to have bottles with a consistent wall thicknesses. We called Novapak to develop a prototype PET bottle as quickly as possible. Novapak was fast off the mark." Strong goes on to say that in less than a month of the project's startup, Dickinson Brands began test-filling initial prototypes of the new bottles.

Novapak uses a two-stage injection/stretch blow-molding process to produce the PET containers in which universal preforms are injection-molded on Husky (www.husky.ca) equipment in one step, which allows it to mold the bottles in small runs. Then the bottles are reheated and blown on Sidel (www.sidel.com) equipment in a second step, which Novapak says helps to control the PET's optical and physical characteristics. According to David Clelland, design engineering manager at Novapak's Eatontown, NJ, headquarters, the witch hazel bottle-redesign process began when a team from Novapak visited the Dickinson Brands plant in Connecticut to study its filling lines. Clelland says that the bottle design required fine-tuning. "You need information, such as the specifications of the line's bottle indexers, the type of filling nozzles used, the filling speeds, the pressure applied to the bottle by the capper and how the bottles will be labeled in order to design a compatible container," he explains.

Novapak selected a universal injection-molding preform to produce the 16-oz PET bottle with a prominent, recessed panel that's designed to accommodate a new witch hazel label.

To maximize bottle uniformity and quality, Clelland says Novapak uses a preform heating oven equipped with slotted shields that allow selected areas of the bottle preform to heat preferentially, causing it to inflate within the blow-mold tooling in a manner that produces uniform wall thicknesses, even on outside corners where bottles can tend to thin out.

"We asked Novapak to add a slightly blue tint to the new bottle to complement our new seven-color label," adds Strong. Labeled front and back, the inside of the back-panel label shows through the bottle to the front panel, providing a splash graphic that serves as a background for the brand name and for slogans on the front. "When the bottle is filled, this creates a three-dimensional effect that highlights the pure, one-hundred-percent-natural witch hazel product," Strong continues. "The clarity of the PET, combined with the superior construction of the package, makes us confident that it will withstand the test of time."

Strong cites another benefit of the PET containers: "The bottles we receive are pristine," he says. "We purchase more than a million of the bottles annually and never see empties with scratches or abrasions. Rejects are virtually zero."

The reason, he speculates, is that the bottles are prevented from rubbing against each other during production, packing and shipping.


More information is available:
Novapak Corp., 800/975-2784. www.pvcc.com.
Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., 905/951-5000. www.husky.ca.
Sidel Inc., 678/221-3000. www.sidel.com.
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