Graham Packaging Co. LP invested $30 million in a new plant designed to produce single-serve PET bottles for the hot-fill beverage industry.
The 110,000-square-foot plant in Manchester Township, near York, Pa., houses two high-speed blow molding machines made by Sidel Group of Octeville, France. The machines, based on new mechanical concepts and advanced electronics, are capable of producing more than 250 million singe-serve PET bottles per year.
``Glass used to have a premium image with consumers,'' Roger Prevot, senior vice president and general manager of Graham's food and beverage business unit, said in a telephone interview. ``Now PET is seen as more modern, more with it.''
Conversion from glass to plastic is driving Graham's growth. The York-based company has been experiencing a growth rate of just under 50 percent a year, Prevot said.
PET makes up slightly less than 30 percent of Graham's business, with high density polyethylene and polypropylene rounding out the materials used in the food and beverage unit.
The new plant will focus on the noncarbonated, hot-fill drink industry, such as juices, juice and sports drinks and new-age beverages. The single-serve glass-bottle market for these hot-fill drinks is several billion units per year, giving Graham ample market share to pick up, Prevot said,
In addition to their high speed, the new blow molding machines represent a step forward in computer-integrated manufacturing. Interchangeable parts reduce the need for a large inventory of replacement and changeover parts, and the machines cut changeover time from hours down to minutes.
Other new technology being developed at the site is geared toward extending the shelf life and preserving the freshness of beverages in plastic bottles. Unlike other major beverage bottle suppliers, Graham is not targeting the beer market with its new technologies.
Graham molds a range of single-serve bottles including 16- and 20-ounce sizes. About 40 employees have been added to the company's staff.
The new plant, to which Graham plans to expand and add lines in the future, will be managed as a satellite operation of Graham's existing plant in Manchester Township.
Graham operates 51 manufacturing facilities in 10 countries. The company's U.S. food and beverage unit claims to be the No. 1 supplier of plastic containers to the juice industry.