Ah, the good, ole metal lug closure. A workhorse for food packaging if there ever was one, right? When was the last time a significant improvement was made in lug closures? Well, here’s one that took more than seven years to develop and just launched on March 8, 2021.
From Consumer Convenience Technologies (CCT), this new aluminum vacuum lug closure joins the company’s Eeasy Lid product line, which started with aluminum continuous-thread (CT) closures in 2019. Eeasy Lid is named as such because it has a button that, when pushed by the consumer, opens a tiny slit that breaks the container’s vacuum so the closure can be removed with about 40% less opening force. After using the product, you press the button from the inside of the lid to reclose the slit so the product stays fresh and doesn’t spill.
“The closure industry relies on two types of lids: CT lids and lug lids. With 80% of the industry using lug lids, we knew there had to be room for innovation,” says CCT managing partner, James Bach, citing 2018 research from Transparency Market Research. “While the Eeasy Lid was a game-changer for the jar lid industry as a whole, it is now transforming how we look at lug lids, as it provides the industry’s first aluminum solution. We’re seeing tremendous interest in the CT version of the Eeasy Lid and expect there to be even more interest in the new aluminum lug version.”
The lug version took so long to develop because the company first tried to create an Eeasy Lid lug closure using steel. But, Brandon Bach, CCT president, explains, “Due to the steel rusting so easily, many attempts were made to eliminate the rust by using several different score repairs, plastisols, and a number of different designs.”
Because steel rusts at a quicker rate, it requires an extra coating of either paint or some other finishing treatment. According to Brandon, “These coatings can be hazardous and involve harsh chemicals that slow down the degradation rate of steel. This factor is extremely important for manufacturers in the packaging industry that are trying to instill sustainable practices, as many goods sent across the world are subjected to environments that are moist or abrasive, which can cause steel to corrode quicker.”
Thus, aluminum became the material of choice for CCT’s improved lug closure.
Sustainable and economic advantages.
The aluminum material offers several sustainability and economic benefits:
• Aluminum offers a weight advantage, being about one-third the weight of steel, according to the Aluminum Association. “The 63-millimeter aluminum lug Eeasy Lid is 25% thicker in gauge,” says Brandon, “but weighs 48% less than a 63mm steel lug lid that is currently on the market. This includes the coatings and plastisol used.”
• The aluminum recycling process uses less energy and time compared to steel recycling. “The energy required to produce new aluminum is down more than a quarter since 1995,” says Brandon, “reducing the aluminum industry’s carbon footprint by 40%. Aluminum is one of the only materials in the consumer and industrial waste stream that more than pays for its own recycling.”
• Additionally, while steel has high recycling rates (73.8% in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency), aluminum beats that, with nearly 75% of all aluminum ever produced still in use. And aluminum can be recycled over and over without loss of quality.
• From a cost perspective, generally, “Recycled aluminum is also far less expensive to purchase,” says Brandon, “allowing manufacturers to buy materials that are both environmentally friendly and low in cost without sacrificing the quality of material.” More specifically, the aluminum lug Eeasy Lid is comparable in price to a steel lug, Brandon says, “due to the advantages of lower costs associated with malleability, state-of-the-art automated tooling, and transportation expenses.”
How well does it perform?
When it comes to shelf life comparisons, the new aluminum vacuum lug closure provides the same barrier and shelf life as a steel counterpart. Brandon tells us, “The aluminum lug Eeasy Lid underwent several major condition tests — such as flight and semi-truck transportation — to determine its efficacy as a seal.”
Bruno Xavier, Ph.D., with the Cornell Food Venture Center, conducted these inspection tests on the Eeasy Lid to determine safety and food stability effects. “The assessment showed that the Eeasy Lid provides a stable seal, continued retention of visual vacuum [for tamper evidence], and it is applicable for acid, acidified, and low-water-activity foods,” says Brandon.
Regarding the closure’s performance on the packaging line, Brandon says the aluminum lug lids will run just like steel lids on the filling line, with (perhaps) the need for a different transfer system, depending on how the line is set up. CCT will work with each company to help determine what, if any, changes are needed.
Initially, CCT will focus on producing 63mm sizes. Eventually, the size range will be from 58 to 82mm for lined aluminum lug Eeasy Lid closures.