Flush with capital after its purchase by Tetra Laval International SA early this year, PET blow molding machine maker Groupe Sidel is looking into entering the market for extrusion blow molding machines.
The Le Havre, France, company already is one of the world's largest producers of injection stretch blow molding equipment, which is used to make PET bottles for carbonated soft drinks, water and other beverages.
But while the PET bottle market still is a growth area, Sidel is pondering expansion into other packaging markets, said Thierry Parages, senior vice president for North and Central America. Sidel may launch high density polyethylene and polycarbonate bottle machines.
The demand for HDPE containers, like PET bottles, has increased as packages made of other materials switch to plastic, he said.
The market includes formidable competitors such as Graham Machinery Group and Bekum America Corp. Another rival, SIG Group, makes both PET and HDPE packaging machines.
``We'll do what fulfills the needs of our customers,'' said Parages, who is based at Sidel's U.S. headquarters in Norcross, Ga.
Packaging giant Tetra Laval of Pully, Switzerland, bought Sidel early this year. The European Union had blocked the sale, citing antitrust issues, but then changed its mind on the $1.6 billion deal.
At NPE 2003, Sidel showed off a new machine that Nicolas Rivollet, marketing vice president, said set a speed record for PET bottles produced each hour. The dual-cavity machine can make 60,000 bottles per hour, surpassing Sidel's old record of 53,000, he said. The old record holder is at a customer's site in England, he said.
The new machine heats preforms from two cavities on standard-size blow wheels. The company will ship the equipment to a U.S. customer, Rivollet said.
The PET bottle market continues to grow by about 10 percent a year, Parages said. Overall, about half of the growth in containers for liquid food comes from the plastics side, he said. Dairy, juices and sports drinks are leading the charge, with Sidel offering special plasma coatings on a bottle's interior to increase shelf life, he said.
Sidel is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to use recycled bottles with the plasma coatings for its products, Rivollet said. It now is working to increase the use of recycled and coated PET bottles in the North American market, he said.