Walk down the beverages aisle of any retail store these days and you will find the shelves laden with a wide choice of branded non-carbonated juices or juice-based drinks. A majority of these beverages are packaged in the all too familiar Tetra Pak Slim aseptic bricks in identical sizes and shapes which can be distinguished only by their colors and graphics. Another large category of the drinks, especially the recently launched Nimbupani inspired variants and Parle Agro’s popular Frooti and Coke’s Maaza are packaged in PET bottles with bright shrink-sleeve labels. Del Monte’s three-piece juice cans with Easy Open ends represent another juice packaging format – though not yet so popular with other brands. Some regional brands are also seen sometimes in Standipaks, Spout-pouches, or the ever trustworthy glass bottles. Overall, the packaging options available currently to brand marketers wishing to compete in the trendy, lifestyle led, health-fad influenced, non-carbonated beverage market are limited and boring as some might term it.
For the M70 billion (US$ 14 billion) beverage market in India eyeing about 20% annual growth in its M1,500 million (80 million cases) top-end 100% juice market, this limited choice of packaging options cannot be good news. Per capita, juice consumption in India is reported to be just a spoonful of 20 ml in comparison to China’s wholesome 1500 ml. Quite obviously, urban youth, young office-goers, and health-conscious young adults form the vast majority of consumers for juice-based beverages. Such consumers identify with change and are known to seek differentiation in their product choices. To drive growth in this segment, therefore, brand marketers have to be prepared to offer choice and innovative packs to fit in with young lifestyles.
While achieving distinctive pack differentiation is a clear objective in this segment, the high unit costs of packaging material and filling equipment can be a very serious limitation. A Tetrapak Slim 200 ml pack sold at an MRP of M15 can cost as much as M3 per pack for primary and secondary packaging. Similarly, a 1000 ml Tetra Pak Slim sold at an MRP of M88 requires M10 per pack for the packaging. On the other hand, a 1000 ml pack of mango drink in a PET bottle, sold at an MRP of M48 requires a much higher proportion of packaging cost. At M9 per pack, the PET bottle is a costlier pack option and yet it cannot offer the benefit of the superior shelf-life of the Tetrapak. (It is another matter that the higher cost of packaging per pack in PET is offset by the much lower plant and operation costs that allow smaller production runs, pack material order quantities, and on-demand packaging.) Under the circumstances there is always a need to carefully weigh the potential benefit of introducing a nonstandard pack format versus an already proven format. The chances are that the nonstandard package carries with it a higher per-unit cost as well as a high risk of market failure. However, with increasing consumer affluence and acceptance of the health benefits of juices the creation of unique, iconic packaging for juice appears to be a risk worth considering, even at a higher cost!
Luckily, the recently developed, award-winning format by Huhtamaki Ronsberg and Herrmann Ultraschalltechnik, known as Cyclero Drinkbag offers one such exciting choice. The Cyclero Drinkbag was reported to have caused a stir in the beverages market in 2007 when it was first presented and won an award for being one of the ‘most creative and innovative packaging solutions on the market.’ It was exhibited in India recently at Plastindia 2012 by Mechatronica S.C, the well-known manufacturers of Lami-tube making machines — Kombis, through their trading partner in India — Profile Packaging.
The Cyclero Drinkbag offers a completely new and trendy approach to soft drink packaging. While it looks just like a normal aluminum can it is actually a cylindrical stand-up pouch. It is described as a ‘logical optimization of conventional stand-up pouches without the sealed side-seams.’ It was originally developed as a substitute for conventional pouches for the German supermarket chain Aldi to market their Amarov brand of Coffee Pods. The switch from packaging in pouches to Cyclero was described as a move to packaging in a flexible can that could protect the product inside from getting crushed as well as prevent aroma loss. A director of Packaging Global Technology at Kraft Foods described the pack as a ‘very creative, lightweight, hermetic pack, blending rigid and flexible packaging options, promising a lot of future opportunities across a wide range of products.’ It was hailed by flexible packaging experts as launching a completely new, innovative, and revolutionary concept for the flexible packaging and aluminum foil sector.
Coffee Pod packaging represents the first market use of this revolutionary technology. A four-layer Oriented Polypropylene / Polyethylene Terephthalate / Al Foil / Polypropylene
(OPP/PET/foil/PP) laminate rotogravure printed up to 8-colours is used to offer improved product protection and real differentiation at the point of sale. It is easy to open and reclose, while the rounded body is tactile and comfortable to hold and is stable on the shelf.
The Cyclero FFS system featuring the Mechatronica Kombis bodymaker can be installed in a space as small as 70 square meters to form-fill-seal the packs automatically at high speed. The process involves the following key stations —
Bodymaker: Required lengths of the printed foil laminate are drawn and rolled into a film tube around a mandrel. The two overlapping ends of the film tube laminate are sealed by ultrasonic heat sealing technology specially developed by Herrmann Ultrasonics.
Lid sealing: Pre-cut and formed lids are drawn from a magazine stack and sealed by ultrasonic sealing to the film tube head. The lids feature an easy-open facility with a tape opening that allows the drink to be poured out once opened. The upper inner rim of the film tube is also reinforced by the lid to ensure the stability of the pack even when it is opened.
Filling and bottom sealing: Product filling is done at this station after which the pre-cut, pre-formed bottoms are also sealed. The sealing technology used ensures seal through contamination to produce a reliable filled pack in every case.
Ejecting and packing: Pistons and air pressure are used to eject the filled, sealed packs on to a conveyor that will take them forward to the end-of-line packing area. On-line batch coding and sell-by date marking are done at this station.
Cleaning: The entire system is capable of being washed and air dried to ensure hygienic production.
By all accounts, the Cyclero Drinkbag offers powerful arguments in its favor. It has the lowest per-unit pack weight for its size when compared to equivalent glass, PET, carton or metal cans. It does not need to be transported to the filling station in pre-formed condition and therefore saves lorry freight. It is among the lowest user of non-renewable resources in its manufacturing. By its low weight and thin walls which can be easily crushed when empty, it generates the least waste volume. It can be printed brightly. It can be easily chilled. Its manufacturers claim, “95% of all people would buy a drink in a Cyclero pack.” Yes, it is indeed an exciting pack innovation and the manufacturers have all the answers. But, as the popular saying goes, ‘he who knows all the answers has not yet been asked all the questions.
The Cyclero pack is here and the people at Profile Packaging who can help to answer all the questions are eager to meet you.
This article was originally published in the February 2012 print issue of Packaging South Asia.