A leading Mexican natural water bottler with integrated plastic bottle, closure and label manufacturing facilities plans to hand over its closure and label production to custom suppliers.
Bonafont SA de CV, of San Pedro Totoltepec, Mexico, which claims a 25 percent share of Mexico's growing market for water in nonreturnable bottles, expects to conclude a deal with a closure injection molder and label producer by year's end, according to Bonafont industrial director Michel Alesi.
The Frenchman, who took over the Mexican spring water plant after French food company Danone bought 50 percent of Bonafont in January, believes this will save money and improve the firm's packaging efficiency.
Alesi said Bonafont will probably sell its three modern Nissei 180-ton cap-molding machines, two of which only operate a couple of times a week, to a custom molder who would then supply the bottler's needs.
Bonafont, which has achieved astonishing growth in a short time in the all-important Mexico City market with a share of about 40 percent, wants to improve its two-piece paper and polypropylene film coated labels, also. It will keep its bottle-making capacity.
Outsourcing not only will save Bonafont new investment required to improve cap and label quality, but allow it to concentrate more on its core water business. Alesi admitted closures and labels would benefit from a molder's advice.
The Mexican market for purified and natural spring water, which is believed to have grown by 30 percent in the last two years, may now amount to 520 million gallons a year, Alesi said. No reliable statistics are available in Mexico for this new market.
Bonafont, formerly controlled by the Mexican business families Vazquez Arana and Funtanet, was established in 1992. The plant, reputed to be Latin America's most modern, produces 18.2 million gallons a year - a fraction of its capacity of 78 million gallons- sold in containers ranging from 8-ounce PET baby bottles to returnable 5-gallon PVC demijohns.
The firm also produces its own blow molded one-serving bottles in PET and high density polyethylene 1-gallon sizes.
It employs three Nissei one-step, four-station, injection-stretch blow molding machines, two of which together make 6,000 1.5-liter bottles an hour with the third producing 4,000 an hour of the 10-ounce size.
A Uniloy extrusion blow molding machine, used to produce the 1-gallon HDPE containers, can turn out 2,000 an hour, while the plant has an Italian Techne extrusion blow molding machine to make up to 72 of the 5-gallon PVC bottles.
Bonafont no longer produces its `Babyfont' 8-ounce bottles on its Aoki injection stretch blow molding line. Also idle is a Welex PET sheet extrusion and Irwin cup thermoforming line capable of making 480 cups a minute. This halted four months ago.
In addition, the packaging section has a 700-ton Italian Negri Bossi injection machine that was bought in 1993 to produce PP crates for gallon bottles for an ill-fated orange drink project. Corrugated cases today pack gallon water bottles, explained technical manager Jsus Verduzco.
The plastics unit uses about 661,400 pounds of PET a month and up to 154,325 pounds of PVC a month, both supplied in Mexico. In addition, Bonafont buys about 13,230 pounds per month of HDPE from U.S. sources and 11,025 pounds of PP a month from Colombia.
The US$20 million business still is being restructured following the Danone takeover, Alesi said.
``In six months we'll know the market much better. The plan is to get better control of the operation. We will grow again from the second half of 1996 and in 1997 with new development,'' he said.
There are changes Alesi would like to make to the 5-gallon containers, including a switch to clearer polycarbonate, common in markets like Canada.