Amcor Rigid Plastics, Ann Arbor, Mich., one of the world’s largest blow molders of PET bottles, has started a new business platform to offer small-volume production to emerging beverage companies that seek to reach the market more cost-effectively, and to established high-volume suppliers that want to explore niche markets. Amcor’s UpStart program is designed to serve needs in the range of 5 million to 30 million bottles/yr, “a range we could not serve easily before,” says Frank Lin, director of marketing for beverages. He explains that this new approach required Amcor to invest in new two-stage (reheat) stretch-blow machines with four to six cavities to supplement its high-volume machines with 20, 24, and 30 cavities. Amcor also had to purchase new preform injection molding machines to fit this production range, notes Ron Whitling, Amcor’s director of value-added services. Lower cavitation reduces tooling costs by up to 75% for low-volume customers. Whitling adds, “Not everyone wants delivery in standard bulk containers. For this new program, we can deliver in full pallets or in small tumble-pack bins.
Amcor offers this lower volume injection and blow molding at four U.S. sites—Chino, Calif.; Allentown, Pa.; Wytheville, Va.; and Ames, Iowa. These facilities are located near co-packers who fill products for market trials to offer potential freight savings on bottle delivery. This capability offers customers the ability to launch new products at lower volumes with regional production or nationwide product introductions with simultaneous multi-regional launches. Another major feature of the UpStart program, is that low-volume customers now can access Amcor’s world-class design and engineering resources (see April ’15 feature).
An early customer of the UpStart program is Alkaline Water Co., Scottsdale, Ariz., which has adopted Amcor’s new Sophi collection of tall, slim, cylindrical stock PET bottles in 500 ml, 700 ml, and 1L sizes for the Alkaline88 alkaline mineral water with an 8.8 pH balance. Alkaline Water is a not-quite three-year-old company that has experienced very rapid growth. Its president and CEO, Steven Nickolas, is a 37-year veteran of the beverage and food industries. “Before, you couldn’t go to Amcor and buy direct unless you were a major beverage company,” Nickolas says. “Their assistance has allowed us to grow at this phenomenal pace.” Alkaline Water is exploring the possibility of Amcor supplying 3L PET bottles for its product.