NEWARK, N.J.—The closure industry is finding more uses for plastic, with ever-wider containers and new varieties of hot-fill bottles.
``In general, the trend over the last 15 years is to slowly move from metal to plastic,'' said Douglas Robinson, chairman of the Washington-based Closure Manufacturers Association and vice president of regional sales and marketing at Crown Cork & Seal Closures Inc. in Fort Wright, Ky.
Speaking at the CMA's first technical seminar, held June 16-17 in Newark, Robinson said each sector is unique, but ``big chunks [of the market] move as the technology changes.'' As an example, he pointed to the use of PET for hot-filled food products.
``As late as three to four years ago, [consumers] were asking for 32-ounce, hot-filled PET, but we blew right by it,'' Robinson said, noting that 32- as well as 16-ounce, hot-filled containers now are on the market.
``Quite often the closure is secondary,'' he said, ``The container is made and then we are asked to solve their problems.''
``People want plastic caps on plastic bottles,'' said William J. Thomas, director of business development at White Cap Inc. in Downers Grove, Ill.
He pointed to Knouse Foods Inc.'s introduction of a 63-millimeter polypropylene vacuum holding closure for its Lucky Leaf applesauce container as one new market for plastic closures. He said Seneca Foods Corp., Campbell Soup Co. and others have similar caps and ``there are so many more to come.''
Wide caps could grow even wider, he said, adding ``the limitation is not the closure, but the container.'' Opportunities are multiplying as customers want both bigger and smaller sizes, and demand is rising for manufacturers to print messages under the caps.
Thomas said: ``In a way we are being driven by the container industry. We're now looking at an explosion of products.''
He said the International Society of Beverage Technologists is doing its best to standardize closures with voluntary standard finishes for hot-fill containers.
Five markets — personal care; health care; food and juice; household; and auto and chemical — provide opportunities for plastics use in containers, said John P. Dinkel, team leader for juice, automotive, food and industrial markets at Owens-Illinois Inc. in Toledo, Ohio.
Plus, he noted, consumers want different packaging for different types of products. Personal-care containers need to project an image, Dinkel said, but face a short life cycle as firms try to differentiate their products.
Health-care containers need ``safety, security and consistency,'' while food and juice need to be ``fresh and looking good.''
As for household containers: ``You see smaller and reformulated, but packages continue to get bigger, 200 ounces and working on 250 ounces, [as] club stores continue to drive the large packages.''