DAK Americas is working to increase its presence in the bottled-water market through Laser-Plus W, a PET grade it commercialized in January.
Charlotte, N.C.-based DAK began commercial production of Laser-Plus W at its plant in Charleston, S.C.
DAK commercial account manager John Cullen said one of the product's main advantages compared with conventional grades is its lower acetaldehyde levels - a drop of as much as 50 percent, which can help protect the water's flavor. Laser-Plus W also offers via faster heat absorption, higher throughput and energy savings of up to 15 percent.
By aiming Laser-Plus W at the bottled-water field, DAK is looking to capitalize on the fastest-growing segment of the PET market. Cullen said PET sales into the North American bottled-water market grew 25 percent in 2003 and are expected to grow 20 percent in 2004. The segment - led by Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani brand and PepsiCo's Aquafina brand - now accounts for 15 percent of total North American PET use. Carbonated soft drinks continue to lead in North America, with a 35 percent market share, according to Cullen.
``The continued growth of bottled water is somewhat surprising, but if you travel and see how people are drinking bottled water, the numbers just confirm what you're seeing,'' Cullen said in a March 19 phone interview.
``Water may be taking some sales from soft drinks,'' he added. ``Soft drinks are still selling well, but now people have different choices.''
Laser-Plus W also can accommodate smaller sizes such as 12-ounce bottles and can handle design challenges such as embossing and grips, Cullen said.
Twelve-ounce soft drink bottles recently underwent successful market testing in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Cullen, who said consumers seemed to prefer the reclosable bottles over aluminum cans in some markets.
In the beer market, North American PET consumption doubled in 2003, but still accounted for only 50 million pounds.
``Beer still has potential, but for now it's a niche market,'' Cullen said.
Overall North American PET demand growth should be in the 6-7 percent range in 2004, DAK officials said. Cullen added that production is strong at the 330 million-pound-capacity Charleston plant, which opened in June.
DAK is a unit of Mexican conglomerate Alfa SA de CV, which acquired the PET resin unit, as well as polyester fibers and purified terephthalic acid assets, from DuPont Co. in 2001. DuPont originally debuted the Laser-Plus line for the carbonated soft drink market in 1996.
Industry estimates place DAK's annual sales at about $300 million. Estimates also rank DAK sixth in North American PET resin capacity, with a market share of about 11 percent.