Specialized packaging technology adapted for La Colombe Coffee Roasters turns an ordinary can into a value-added delivery system for a foamy, microbubble-laden latte.
Everyone’s familiar with draft beer, so why not a Draft Latte?
That was the brainchild of Todd Carmichael, CEO and Co-Founder, La Colombe Coffee Roasters, whose goal was to create a packaged caffeinated drink with a texture that duplicated that found with lattes prepared artisanal-style in the company’s cafes.
Because metal packaging aligned with his philosophy of being infinitely recyclable, environmentally responsible and part of the economy that he participates in, Carmichael wanted the package to be a can.
However, the major hurdle was to find a can that could deliver the product he envisioned.
Carmichael connected with Crown, which researched and developed a can pierced with a hole at the bottom into which is inserted a valve to create the desired reaction.
Dubbed the InnoValve can, the sleek 10oz can combines Crown’s aerosol and beverage technologies using an aerosol valve adapted for beverage cans. The InnoValve can has a proprietary one-way valve/grommet at the bottom of the can that compresses a nitrous oxide gas into the drink upon opening, in this case creating the textured foam that gives the Draft Latte its distinctive café style quality. The can also has a "lip guard" fitment that optimizes the drinking exprience.
Packaging Digest drilled down deeper into the product’s design and marketing and the more intriguing technical aspects of the innovation. Responding to our questions are Todd Carmichael, CEO and Co-Founder, La Colombe Coffee Roasters, and Ron Skotleski, director of marketing, Crown Beverage Packaging, North America.
Tell us about the can decoration.
Carmichael: The design is a nod to what’s inside the can. It’s clean and minimal, representing the simple, natural ingredients used in the drink, mostly nutrient-rich milk and cold-pressed espresso.
The dove has been La Colombe’s logo for 23 years. It’s universally recognized as a symbol of freedom and peace. The white represents the milk and the pure nature of Draft Latte, which contains no chemical preservatives or flavorings. The design was done in-house at La Colombe.
For the initial launch, the product will utilize shrink sleeves printed using a flexographic and digital printing process. Later, the can will be printed using dry offset lithography.
Was a foaming “widget” ever considered?
Carmichael: The widget is an interesting beverage technology, but it doesn’t achieve the complete texture we wanted—a nitro widget cannot reach the microbubbles or level of foam that embodies the draft latte.
We ultimately decided we had to take the next step in technology with the InnoValve can.
What more can you tell us about the development of the InnoValve can?
Skotleski: The hole is created post can forming. The process of creating the hole and inserting the valve took less than a year.
We dedicated a great amount of resources across multiple divisions, Beverage & Aerosol. Crown has a best-in-class R&D Dept. It took collaboration from our both our R&D facilities in Wantage, UK, and Alsip, IL. This project stretched across all departments, including R&D, Engineering, Operations and Commercial.
Even today, we are still learning and perfecting our process. Innovation and continuous improvement are part of our culture at Crown. It was a true team effort, and we could not have done it without our supplier partners as well.
Next: A closer look at the top and bottom of the InnoValve can
What can you say about the InnoValve itself?
Skotleski: The InnoValve can is a Crown trademark for the entire package – not a name for the valve.
Crown Beverage Packaging North America and La Colombe, were lucky in a sense, because Crown has extensive experience with grommets and inserting them into cans through our Aerosol Division (steel cans). Crown Aerosol Packaging North America utilizes grommets in cans on a daily basis.
The patented “Scheindel Universal Grommet” is an FDA-compliant valve that we have exclusive access to from our partners, Ultramotive.
We saved a great deal of time by not having to develop a custom valve. That said, a great deal of work still needed to be done on applying this valve to an aluminum beverage can for this very unique product application.
Ultramotive was also instrumental in helping to develop the insertion and gassing process. The valve itself is a unique resin based, injection-molded piece that’s inserted into the InnoValve can using a proprietary process.
What details can you share about the Lip Guard over the top of the can?
Carmichael: The lip guard was one of the first aspects of the can that I started designing. Controlling the tactile experience is key with a textured drink, and the lip guard is a way we can translate between the aluminum can and the drinker, augmenting their experience and taste.
Coffee on-the-go is consumed through small holes, straws, lids, etc., which minimize spills, but have the added benefit of directing the beverage to the area of the tongue with the most taste buds, maximizing the flavor.
The lip guard is made of recyclable plastic and it’s completely custom. Current for the product’s initial launch, it is applied manually to the cans in-house at La Colombe.
Skotleski: La Colombe designed the lip guard and created the mold. It is injected molded by its partner, Flexcraft. The lip guard is easily detachable for recycling.
What’s the market status?
Carmichael: The initial limited release of Draft Latte cans stirred a huge amount of interest in this product. We sold more than 10,000 cans the first day it was available.
Consumers are proving what I believe to be true: that the next wave of coffee is cold and it’s mobile. We want to fulfill those desires and continue providing the dynamic, textured experience of coffee that America has come to love and expect in local cafes.
The cans are currently available for pre-order on our website, http://www.lacolombe.com. It will be widely available in La Colombe cafes and national retailers by the end of the summer.