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Supplement CAN gets in shape

Committed to the idea that the human body requires psychological as well as physical stamina for optimal performance, WINFUEL, Inc., a division of Goen Technologies, Cedar Knolls, NJ, has launched a new line of multivitamins that company founder and CEO Alex Goen says not only provides the body with its daily nutritional needs, but also "fuels the mind with a competitive-edge message."

WINFUEL(R), introduced in March in Men's and Women's formulas, combines key vitamins and minerals, along with seven motivating concepts, or "winning virtues," to promote high physical and mental performance. "I am a major believer in the idea that we are nourished not only by the things we feed our bodies, but also by the belief structures we feed our minds," says Goen. "Therefore, I felt there was a credible need in the marketplace for a vitamin that was all about winning."

To support this brand message, WINFUEL selected the packaging format that it felt most aptly conveyed its products' unique positioning: a custom-shaped "bottle can"—the first of its kind in the supplement market—from CCL Container (www.cclcontainer.com). Initially designed and used for sister company TRIMSPA(R)'s X32 diet aid and supplement, which was made famous by spokesperson and model Anna Nicole Smith, the striking silver, brushed-aluminum, shaped can also provides WINFUEL with protection from counterfeiting.

The WINFUEL can is one of several designs recently manufactured by CCL Container at its Hermitage, PA, facility that have stimulated new excitement in categories such as energy drinks and alcoholic beverages, not traditionally found in impact-extruded cans. The new multivitamin bottle also represents the latest evolution in shaping technology from CCL, which has been designing and producing shaped aluminum containers for more than a decade (see sidebar).

Tag-lined the "first-ever multi-vitaWIN(TM)" by its creator, WINFUEL uses what the company calls seven winning virtues, derived from the product name—Power, Attitude, Inspire, Fierce, Crush, Desire and Believe—to reinforce a winning philosophy in its users. These virtues, listed on the product's primary can and secondary carton, are also inscribed on each tablet.

Explains Goen, "You decide what word you're going to use depending on your day. You may decide that you want to take Power, or take Attitude, or take Inspire. You put the pill in your mouth, and you think about the word a little bit, and hopefully you try and use that additional inspiration all day long to get you through life's journey."

WINFUEL also differentiates itself from some competitive products by offering two separate, distinct formulas for the specific needs of men and women. A third variety, GenNext(TM) for children aged four to 16, is scheduled for launch this month in a chewable tablet.

Packed in trim, cylindrical aluminum bottles with the hand appeal and tactile feel of a free weight, the three varieties are all available in a 50-count size, as well as in a 120-count for Men's and Women's. The lightweight yet sturdy cans with a tapered neck are made from 99.7-percent virgin aluminum, coated with a silver-metallic finish and decorated with bold red-and-black type and graphics that are accented with pink, blue or yellow, for Women's, Men's and GenNext formulas, respectively. The can's bold, iconic graphics, designed by WINFUEL packaging manager Randee Applebaum, are also used on the secondary packaging, a litho-printed, SBS carton with a rectangular die-cut on the front panel, converted by Innovative Folding Carton (www.cmsgilbreth.com/theinnovativepkg/).

To ensure the necessary child-resistance and resealability, WINFUEL chose a two-piece, 38-mm closure with a metal inner cap and a clear polypropylene overcap, the Saf-Lok(R) from Penn-Wheeling, to seal the container. The tin-plated steel inner cap is printed on top with opening instructions and the WINFUEL logo.

In addition to using the can to differentiate the product on-shelf, WINFUEL says it also selected the format as a proactive measure against counterfeiting. Says Goen Technologies' vp of supply chain management, Tony Azzizzo, "We expect that WinFuel is going to be a very successful and popular brand, and as you well know, popular brands are typically counterfeited or knocked off. By going with an aluminum can with a unique shape and some very creative finishes, we hope that the cost of entry for a would-be counterfeiter will be so high, that they will move on to other, easier targets."

TRIMSPA X32, which transitioned from a plastic to an aluminum bottle last fall, uses the same can, but with a matte finish, also to discourage counterfeiting. Providing additional hurdles to duplication, the TRIMSPA can also employs an intricately printed monochrome, screened photo image and will soon be using debossing on the product logo. Remarks CCL Container's vp of sales and marketing, Edward Martin, "By making the package impossible to replicate, you can maintain product distinction and earned market share."

Other advantages of the aluminum can cited by WINFUEL include product protection against moisture and UV light and the material's environmental friendliness.

By going with an aluminum can with a unique shape and some very creative finishes, we hope that the cost of entry for a would-be counterfeiter will be so high, that they will move on to other, easier targets.

CCL Container, one of three divisions that comprise CCL Industries, Inc. (www.cclind.com), Toronto, is devoted exclusively to the manufacture of impact-extruded aluminum containers for regional and multinational marketers in the personal care, cosmetics, food, beverage, household, industrial and automotive industries.

CCL Container's capacity consists of 23 impact-extrusion lines, including six high-speed production lines rated at 200 cans/min, distributed among three locations in Hermitage, PA, Penetang, ON, and Mexico City. Since 2003, the company has invested more than $60 million in its Penetang facility, adding four high-speed production lines, along with expanding the building for additional lines. In March, the company announced that it is planning a $35-million expansion of its Hermitage plant that will add three to four new lines to the seven currently in operation.

The WINFUEL bottle is produced at CCL Container's Hermitage plant, which uses its seven lines to produce can sizes from 35 to 66 mm. Operating three shifts daily, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the facility boasts an output of 800,000 cans/day. Each line is equipped to extrude, decorate, shape and pack aluminum cans in one continuous process that takes 55 min on the older, 333-ft-long lines and 65 min on the newer lines.

On the day of PD's visit to Hermitage, CCL Container was gearing up for the introduction of WINFUEL, running a 120-count, 533152-mm can for the Women's formula on one of its lines. This line, along with the majority of the facility's other lines, was supplied by Mall+Herlan GmbH (www.mall-herlan.com), with various components supplied by other manufacturers.

According to Martin, all of CCL's lines have the capability of running up to five different diameter sizes. However, for efficiency's sake, most are set up to run just one or two diameters exclusively, as it can take up to eight hours to change over tooling on a line for a diameter change.

Manufacturing of the WINFUEL cans begins when aluminum slugs sized according to the diameter of the can to be produced are dumped onto a conveyor leading to a Mall+Herlan impact-extrusion press. During this process, a mandrel is driven into a die cylinder containing one of the coin-shaped aluminum slugs with 250 tons of force. Through the impact, the metal of the slug is forced to flow up along the insides of the die, creating a seamless can body.

The trauma of the impact-extrusion process results in a cylinder with surface imperfections and an uneven rim. The next several steps—brushing and trimming—remove those imperfections and trim the can to size. The cans are then washed on equipment from Hinterkopf (www.hinterkopf.com) and are dried as they pass through a 203-deg-F oven. Positioned after the oven, a pin-chain accumulator from Metzger & Becker (www.metzgerundbecker.de) carries cans vertically up and down a virtual wall of pins, holding up to 2,500 cans at one time.

The next step is the application of an internal liner that will prevent any chemical reactions from taking place between the aluminum can and its product contents. Cans receive the liner via equipment from Sprimag (www.sprimag.de). After the liner is applied, the cans move through a 509-deg-F oven that cures the coating. Another 2,500-can-capacity pin-chain accumulator follows.

Moving from the accumulator, the cans begin the decoration process, conveying into a basecoat printer from Polytype (www.polytype.com) that applies a clear, white or metallic coating on the can, depending on the desired end-product appearance. As mentioned, the WINFUEL can receives a silver-metallic basecoat that WINFUEL's Applebaum refers to as a "sparkle gloss" finish. After coating, the cans are carried through another oven and are heated to 284 deg F to dry.

Dry-offset printing is next on a seven-color press from Polytype that uses a technology that Martin describes as "challenging" for process-color work. He explains: "All of the colors get transferred to a single blanket, so you're applying all of the colors wet. Because of this, you can't trap colors over colors. To meet customer requirements, CCL has developed a way to create the look of four-color process while avoiding the problems of wet-trapping. In dry-offset printing, the biggest positive is that print-to-print registration is very, very good compared to a lot of other printing processes." The WINFUEL can is printed in four line colors.

After oven drying, the printed cans receive an overlacquer, or varnish, on equipment from Polytype. CCL Container routinely uses a matte or gloss finish, with the WINFUEL container varnished in gloss. The overlacquer is dried as the cans are carried through another oven, exiting onto a 1,800-can pin-chain conveyor, ready for shaping.

CCL Container uses two primary brands of shaping machines, or neckers, on its seven lines: Frattini (www.frattinispa.com) and Nussbaum-Flums (now Hinterkopf). It is here, "where art meets science," as Martin describes the shaping process, that CCL Container has distinguished itself through the use of custom-designed shaping dies. The necker consists of a series of up to 27 progressive dies on a turret that incrementally bend and shape the necks of the cans. "When necking the container, you want to avoid excessive deformation in any single station," explains Martin, "or you will crush the can cylinder. That's really the biggest challenge of doing all the new shapes."

New can designs are created by CCL Container on an off-line necker, using a mix of existing dies to approximate a prototype, before an investment in new tooling—which can cost up to $3,000 per die—is made. "With the bits and pieces, we're able to get the prototype very, very close to the desired shape," says Martin. "I think that has been a little bit refreshing for the people in the beverage industry. Usually when you want to do something custom in beverage with plastic or glass, you're talking molds, and that's a pretty large expense."

It is also on the necking machine that outserts are added onto beverage cans, after which they proceed to a Hinterkopf postwasher. According to Martin, CCL Container's practice of postwashing beverage containers to remove the various oils introduced in the necking process sets it apart from its European competitors. "From a beverage standpoint, it all ultimately sells on taste, so we're committed to postwashing," he says. Aerosol cans are not postwashed, but proceed directly to bundling.

Postwashed cans are oven-dried and are then either sent to a palletizer from Busse/SJI Corp., a subsidiary of Arrowhead Systems, Inc. (www.arrowheadsystems.com) or bundled on equipment from Nussbaum-Flums. The WINFUEL cans are bundled in groups of 50 cans, after which they are manually palletized.

As the WINFUEL cans are just now reaching store shelves across the country, Alex Goen says that consumer feedback on the new can is limited. However, if the TRIMSPA can is any indicator, he anticipates good news. "People love the packaging for TRIMSPA," he says. "I can't stress that enough. They repeatedly comment on how cool it is."

Tony Azzizzo agrees, saying that the higher cost of the packaging versus a plastic container should be well worth the investment. "We feel that aluminum gives us a very different presence in the market, and it supports our marketing message of being a unique brand that's all about winning. Cost is always a factor in packaging, but at the same time, when we balance the benefits of security—meaning the difficulty in counterfeiting the product—and the benefits that come from the shelf presence, we feel it is worth the higher cost."

More information is available:

CCL explores the shape of things

The history of CCL Container's involvement in can shaping revolves around its desire to utilize its capabilities to the fullest, while offering its customers new ways to distinguish their products. The CCL Container Hermitage plant is one of several it acquired in the late 1980s from European companies that had set up shop in the U.S. anticipating a growth in impact-extruded, aluminum containers similar to that experienced in Europe. "But the market was very, very different in the U.S; it developed much more slowly," notes Martin. "It also had a lot more variability to it, as far as the sizes and styles of containers being produced."

Even today, he adds, the North American market for aluminum aerosol cans is approximately only one-third the size of the Europe's. "Their body spray market alone is as big as our total market for aluminum aerosol cans," he says.

To fill the excess capacity acquired through these facility purchases (of which, only the Hermitage plant is still in operation), CCL Container looked for ways to use its equipment for new product applications. Its first development was a threaded bottle for personal care products that involved machining threads through a necking, or shaping, process into the container. Specialty haircare manufacturer Joico Intl. (now Zotos Intl.) was the first to use the threaded bottle.

The next iteration of the shaped container was the ProNeck bottle, a 66-mm container, necked in to 22 mm, for fuel products. "This package taught us a lot about the limits that we could push the ability to shape a container," recalls Martin.

The Trimline(tm) "bullet-shaped" aerosol, with a curved shoulder and a 1-in.-dia opening for the aerosol valve, was the next evolution. Unilever was one of the first customers for this container, using it for one of its Thermasilk haircare products. It was at this time, Martin relates, that CCL saw a growth in the use of shaped containers by smaller marketers looking to differentiate themselves on-shelf.

Breaking the market for bottle cans wide open, the latest spate of designs has brought impact-extruded aluminum containers into new markets, driving CCL's aluminum-shaping capabilities to new levels.

The first example was the 14-oz bottle can for RE energy drink from Snapple Beverage Group's Mistic Beverages, launched in 2002 (see PD, July '02, p. 42) followed by an 18-oz bottle for Snapple's Elements energy drink line; and an 8-oz can for a line of ready-to-drink (RTD) functional beverages from (bold)VPX (Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc.). For hot-fill beverages, CCL modified its threaded bottle to use a plastic threaded lug sleeve outserted onto the aluminum container, making it more comfortable to drink from. The sleeve accepts the same type of lug-style cap used on glass beverage bottles.

Another industry segment that has begun to embrace aluminum bottle cans is the alcoholic RTD market. In 2002, Canada's Vincor Intl. introduced its three varieties of vodka-based Tabu beverages in a 300-mL longneck crown-finish bottle. In August 2004, Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s Iron City Beer (see PD, Sept. '04, p. 1) got a makeover in a 12-oz aluminum bottle can with a crown finish. And, in March, Molson Canada launched Molson Kick, a new beer beverage with essence of guarana, in a 355-mL bottle can.

These packages, as well as the WINFUEL supplement bottle, comprise a mix of custom-designed shapes and standard designs developed by CCL Containers for specific applications. Says Martin: "We're not against creating something a little bit different, but we're actually quite pleased with the number of people that show up and say, 'I like that one just the way it is.'"

Looking to the future, Martin says that one of the ways CCL Container hopes to inspire new applications is through innovation. With its new Body Shapes(tm) shaping technology, expected to be in commercial application before Q4-2005, CCL Container will have the ability to shape an entire container, within 20 mm of the bottom.

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