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Beer me that Bobber

Steer clear of the beer, fishies. Newly minted Beer Can Bobbers are splashing into stocked lakes everywhere, thanks to an angler's inspiration and the efforts of packaging startup Shrink Pack Services.



Based in Kentwood, MI, Shrink Pack was founded last November by Bret Foster and Katie Unsworth, both employees with labeler Forbes Co. (www.forbesdivision.com) According to Unsworth, their entrepreneurial journey began two weeks after a shrink-sleeve-intensive PACK EXPO 2006, when she received a call from Advantage Plastics owner Anthony Taft inquiring about the technology. “He said, 'You're the only one I've talked to who knows what I'm talking about,'” she recalls. Forbes didn't offer shrink sleeves at the time, but Unsworth and Foster visited Taft nonetheless to inspect his application, a fishing bobber with a miniature beer can replica.

“We were really excited when he showed us the project,” says Unsworth. Taft's eureka moment reportedly came on a Sunday morning fishing expedition as he looked at discarded beer cans littering the lake. “Ultimately, either he needed to invest in equipment, or Bret and I could buy the equipment and start Shrink Pack,” says Unsworth.

From pieces to P-O-P packs

The production line in Shrink Pack's 5,000-sq-ft facility—which reportedly assembles and labels at 80 parts/min—was built by Criterion Manufacturing (www.criterionms.com) and Blesco (www.blesco.com). Three vibratory feeding hoppers send the three respective bobber components—cap, body and spring—down to a 12-cavity rotary dial that marries the parts together, spinning at 7 rpm. A PresencePlus vision system from Banner Eng. (www.bannerengineering.com) verifies proper placement of the spring and reroutes defects to a reject station.



Each assembled bobber exits down a chute and into a floating puck, which carries it to an Axon (www.axoncorp.com) 130HS shrink sleever to receive a label. The sleeves come gravure-printed from SleeveCo (www.sleeveco.com). Each bobber then passes through an Axon heat tunnel and has its label checked by another PresencePlus vision system.

The finished products are hand-packed into 36-count point-of-purchase displays sent to convenience stores and chains including Bass Pro Shops, MC Sports, Meijer, K-Mart and Wal-Mart Canada, and are priced at $2.49 to $2.99 per bobber. Seven styles are available: Miller Lite; Miller High Life; Miller High Life Light; Leinenkugel's Original; Leinenkugel's Light; Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss; and Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss.

According to Foster, Shrink Pack has produced and shipped 1.5 million bobbers since launching the line at the end of April. The Beer Can Bobber is planned as just the first in a series of Fun Bobbers, which in the future may include brands such as NASCAR and other beverages.

Shrink Pack doesn't plan to stop at bobbers, either. “We see ourselves as a contract packager,” says Foster. “We can take our existing equipment and incorporate more things into it.”





More information is available:
Forbes Co., 800/250-4112. www.forbesdivision.com.
Criterion Manufacturing, 616/784-3500. www.criterionms.com.
Blesco, 616/977-3950. www.blesco.com.
Banner Eng., 800/809-7043.www.bannerengineering.com.
Axon Corp., 919/772-8383. www.axoncorp.com.
SleeveCo Inc, 800/624-0204. www.sleeveco.com.



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