CARSON, CALIF. (Nov. 3, 10:50 a.m. EDT) — Rigid packaging supplier TricorBraun led the way in substantially upgrading the appearance of El Mexicano-brand drinkable yogurt bottles. TricorBraun of Creve Coeur, Mo., is a division of Kranson Industries Inc.
Extrusion blow molder Mayfair Plastics in Carson manufactures the 7-ounce containers of white high density polyethylene and applies 2-mil-thick shrink-film sleeve labels of PVC. Linking the molding and sleeving processes required creativity to quickly reduce heat emanating from the polymers.
Brand owner Marquez Bros. International Inc. of San Jose, Calif., sought outside support because of a lack of space for necessary label-related machines.
Marquez hot-fills the stylish bottles in a Hanford, Calif., plant. The firm produces and widely distributes Mexican-style dairy products, meat items and canned goods and imports branded grocery items from Mexico and Central America.
The newly designed containers reached the retail market in June, but preliminary discussions between TricorBraun and Marquez started in early 2002.
For drinkable yogurt, Marquez “was using an old-fashioned HDPE dairy-style container with an equally dated pressure-sensitive label,” said Debbie Hooey, sales manager in TricorBraun's Union City, Calif., branch. “We suggested an updated look.”
The project was a “drastic change” for Marquez and required extensive market research, said Craig Sawicki, TricorBraun executive vice president of design and development.
The firm's design center in Clarendon Hills, Ill., made numerous proposals, eventually creating a fluid-rib bottle design suitable for a full shrink-wrap and distinctive from competing products. Basic concepts received Marquez approval in June 2002. Later, the center also extensively reworked the label graphics.
Hooey approached Mayfair in late 2002. Discussions about label application led TricorBraun and Mayfair into a partnership on the project, said Neal Boden, Mayfair vice president of sales and marketing. “The two companies shared 50-50 in costs attributable to decorating the bottles.”
TricorBraun purchased two 10-cavity molds that are expandable to 12 cavities, and Mayfair acquired a 12-station-head for an existing Uniloy Recip 2000 intermittent-reciprocating-screw mono-layer machine. Mayfair's engineering and toolroom department built in-line equipment to convey bottles from the blow molder to the label application system and shrink tunnel.
A serpentine track and blown air help the process. “All bottles are warm as they come out of the blow molder and run down the conveyor,” Boden said. “They shrink as they cool. We had to ensure the sleeved bottles did not wrinkle. Exiting the shrink tunnel, we installed a three-snake conveyor allowing the bottles to cool down before pack out.”
Axon Corp. of Raleigh, N.C., supplied an EZ-2-200 sleeve-label application system, which operates with two independent, synchronized heads. An existing Axon heat tunnel at Mayfair was attached to the system.
“Predominantly, people sleeve after filling,” said Edward Farley, Axon sales manager. Sleeving an empty must overcome the bottle's basic instability. “We included a bottle stabilization system as an integral part,” Farley said.
Mayfair applies labels to 120 containers per minute and can increase the speed as demand grows.
Integrity Seal International of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., manufactures the eight-color, rotogravure-printed sleeve labels.
Portola Packaging Inc. makes the bottle's 38-millimeter-wide, low density PE snap caps at a plant in Chino, Calif.
The whole-milk, Mexican-style, drinkable yogurt is available in mango, guava, pina colada and regular and nonfat versions of strawberry. Next flavor: strawberry-banana.
Marquez's sales of the product have increased 40 percent since its June introduction, according to Hooey.
Marquez kept a less-popular flavor, guanabana, in the old container. Marquez set up the drinkable-yogurt line in 1995.
Mayfair employs 92, occupies 67,000 square feet for manufacturing and had 2002 sales of $12.3 million.