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Old Spice breaks away from imported glass bottles for lookalike containers in more durable, lightweight PET



Trading in its imported glass bottle for a more sustainable and consumer-friendly option, the Old Spice fragrance line now is housed in a three sizes of shatter-resistant polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles: a 3.86-in. container holding 2.5 oz of cologne, a 4.587-in. container in 4.25 oz of after-shave, and 5.47-in. container holding 6.37 oz of after-shave. The Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G), Cincinnati, began shipping orders to stores throughout North and Latin America in February.

Sand creates lengthy lead times

What the company kept the same was the well-recognized look of the Old Spice bottle, which has been the same since the company first bought the scent from Shulton Co. in June 1990 and serves as a style mark for the fragrance's well-established customer base. P&G fills 6 million bottles a year with Old Spice, and this high-volume production was achieved despite supply-chain challenges associated with its imported glass bottle.

“The old glass bottle was produced for us in Belgium,” P&G packaging engineer Jeff Cadle explains. “The sand used to make the bottle color [porcelain] is Egyptian sand, which forced the supplier to run the furnaces at a much higher temperature than usual.” Because of the complicated setup needed to produce these bottles under such high heat, P&G previously was forced to plan bottle production a year ahead of the actual manufacturing due date.

Old Spice's business is cyclical, with upswings in the summer and right before the holiday seasons. Eager to add more flexibility to its bottle supply stream, with an ultimate end goal of just-in-time production, P&G started a three-year-long project to replicate Old Spice's iconic look in a more sustainable and consumer-friendly container.

'Growing' bottles

To help the company carry the Old Spice brand to a lightweight and more totable package, P&G called upon Captive Plastics (www.captiveplastics.com), which was acquired by Berry Plastics Corp. (www.berryplastics.com) on February 6, 2008 and now uses the parent company's name. Leading the project on the Procter & Gamble side was P&G packaging engineer Cadle. The Berry Plastics team includes project manager Peter Sirois, senior designer Refi Lika, technical services vp Rolland Strasser, new product manager Roman D'Alessandro and account manager Walt Hertenstein.

According to Berry Plastics, when done incorrectly, glass-to-plastic conversions can cause value-perception problems with customers. “Plastic containers tend to be much thinner than glass bottles,” Lika explains. “Sometimes, product will reach a lower point in the neck or shoulder than the customer is used to. These customers sometimes incorrectly think they are receiving less product, even though the volumes are the same.”

To help P&G balance changes made for volume perceptions and those made to the original design, Berry Plastics used highly accurate but time-consuming SLA (Stereolithography) modeling. “Typically, those containers take eight or nine hours to 'grow,'” Lika explains.

Thick is in

From fall 2005 to spring 2006, Berry Plastics worked with Cadle on design and material selections. Drawing upon its more than 40 years of experience in glass-to-plastic conversion, Berry Plastics was able to recommend a lower-cost extrusion blow-molding process for the prototyping stage. From spring 2006 to fall 2006, Berry Plastics developed unit cavity tools to create prototypes in up to five bottle weights with varying wall thicknesses and multiple material compositions, including HDPE, PET and other copolyesters.

Impressed by Berry Plastics' skill in producing very thick-walled PET prototypes, Cadle remarks, “Making a heavyweight bottle in PET is extremely difficult. The strength in PET comes from stretching, and we're literally not stretching the bottle because it is so heavyweight. Normal bottle walls are 10 to 12 thousandths of an inch, and we are averaging 40 to 90 thousandths of an inch.”

To give the bottle the necessary glossy look, the companies eventually decided on PET resin from Eastman Chemical Company (www.eastman.com.) Berry Plastics also was able to match the porcelain-like appearance of the original glass bottle, using a color additive from Ampacet Corp. (www.ampacet.com). “The project manager did the sampling of the color chips and color resin, and he nailed it,” Lika recalls.

A timeless packaging line

The first production bottles, which were manufactured using an injection stretch blow-molding process, rolled off the line in September 2007. Three months later, all three bottle types passed filling-line qualification. According to Cadle, who led the qualification process, the new bottles required very little change at Old Spice's contract filler, KIK Custom Products (www.kikcorp.com). “It was maintaining the shape and look of the glass bottle that saved [the filler from having to do a complete line] conversion,” Cadle explains. “For the most part, KIK's filling line remains much the same as it did when the equipment was first used to bottle Old Spice. It was not the new bottles' shatterproof properties that saved the line conversion; it was maintaining the shape and look of the glass bottle that saved it.”

KIK's history with Old Spice goes back to the days when the plant was owned by the Shulton Co., which was founded by William Lightfoot Schultz in 1934. (Modern consumers might be surprised to discover that the Old Spice brands originally started as a product line for women, not men.)

Remarking on the longevity of the filling and packaging line used for Old Spice, Cadle says: “You probably won't recognize our filling and packaging equipment. The Old Spice bottling line is still using machines and parts from the original line established in the late 1950s and early 1960s. For example, we use a old-rotary head filler and Old Spice is one, if not the only brand, that uses a reamer instead of a crimper to put on the bottle closure.”

Taking advantage of the new shatter-resistant properties of the PET bottle, KIK did add an Omni-line M400 SSD plastic bottle unscrambling system from Pace Packaging Corp. (www.pacepkg.com). The stainless-steel unscrambler processes up to 200 bottles/min.

Less is more with PET

The lightweight PET material, which Berry Plastics says makes the plastic bottles more than 50 percent lighter than their glass counterparts, can be made with less lead time and require less energy to make and transport. So, Old Spice fans can feel assured the scent will be more readily available. Lika points out another benefit gained from the move to PET: “The new bottles won't shatter on the ceramic tiles in your bathroom.”


More information is available:
Berry Plastics Corp., 812/306-2000. www.berryplastics.com.
KIK Custom Products, 800/479-6603. www.kikcorp.com.
Ampacet Corp., 888/267-2238. www.ampacet.com.
Eastman Chemical Co., 423/229-2000 www.eastman.com.
Pace Packaging Corp., 973/227-1040. www.pacepkg.com.
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