DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Dec. 11, 3 p.m. EST) — In the world of PET container blow molding, where high volume has been the name of the game, low prices and slim profits are fueling a trend toward added value and differentiation.
That trend clearly is present in the U.S. market, where highly competitive water and beverage customers are squeezing molders into more-profitable custom bottle markets, according to Hiroshi Chino, sales manager of injection stretch blow molding machinery supplier Aoki Laboratory America Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill.
"The U.S. market is volume-driven, and demand for those [water and beverage] containers is still rapidly growing, but it's becoming a price war ... where no one's making money.
"But times are changing and the trend is to custom-made bottles — medium- and low-volume production with flexibility," Chino said at K 2001 in Dusseldorf.
That change certainly suits parent company Aoki Laboratory Inc. of Nagano-ken, Japan, a global leader in one-step injection stretch blow molding.
Over the years Aoki has pursued its own technology, turning out machines employing its patented direct-heat conditioning system to reduce the unit price of molded bottles. The company has maintained a consistent message that its technology can deliver a greater variety of value-added products, said President Shigeto Aoki.
Too often processors are lured by the expectation of easy profit from the high-volume container molding, he said.
"Now I listen to all those people crying [that] they cannot get orders, cannot make a profit, so I want the chance to help them, and they want to listen to our way of thinking," Aoki said.
The supplier's striking K 2001 booth bore witness to Aoki's scope. Instead of the more usual range of machines, the booth was dominated by a colorful array of 5,200 different samples of bottles and wide-mouth containers molded by the firm's machinery.
"This is going to give people ideas about what their next project will be," Chino said.
Aoki's exhibit had just one operating machine, its latest SBIII-250LL-50S unit. The upgraded version of the supplier's best-selling SBIII-250LL-50 was molding drinking-water bottles.