Campbell Soup Co. is preparing to start its first in-house blow molding operation, working with Amcor PET Packaging to make tomato-based juice bottles at Campbell's largest U.S. plant.
The Camden, N.J.-based food producer is making a rapid conversion to plastics for its juices and single-serve soups, said spokesman John Faulkner on June 14. The company will make PET bottles on-site at its juice-production plant in Napoleon, Ohio, a move that will save both cost and shipping time, he said.
Campbell is building a 64,000-square-foot addition to the Napoleon plant to make the blow molded bottles, Faulkner said. The company also will upgrade and retrofit its filling equipment to accept both plastic bottles and the traditional metal cans, he said.
``Having the capabilities on-line will make us more flexible,'' Faulkner said. ``We'll have the ability to move between sizes [on Campbell's filling lines] and between steel and plastic containers. The marketplace continues to migrate to plastic, and this gives us ready utilization of both cans and bottles.''
The company will invest about $30 million in the project, set to be completed by November, Faulkner said. Of that total, $6 million will be used for the collocated blow molding facility, he said.
Amcor PET Packaging, based in Manchester, Mich., will provide the equipment and the employees to manage the blow molding operation, said spokeswoman Shelley Steele. The money to build the addition is coming from Campbell, she said.
Amcor will provide between 35 and 40 employees and plans to install two blow molding lines in Napoleon, Steele said. The injection stretch machines are suited for hot-fill beverages, especially juices, she said.
Amcor PET Packaging is the largest blow molder in North America, according to Plastics News rankings, and recorded sales of $1.2 billion for the 2003 fiscal year. The company is owned by Amcor Ltd. of Melbourne, Australia, and serves as its PET bottle-making subsidiary for North and South America.
The company had provided bottles to Campbell from outside plants, she said.
``This is our first collocation with Campbell but not our first in a collocated facility,'' Steele said. ``It makes much sense because we're not double-handling the bottles, nor palletizing and shipping them into a plant. We're much more responsive to customers by doing this.''
Amcor opened another on-site bottle-making facility last year in Kenosha, Wis., at a facility operated by an alliance of Nestle AG and Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc, Steele said. The company also works on-site with several smaller and private-label bottlers, she said.
Campbell makes V8 vegetable juice, V8 Splash Smoothies and juice drinks, and tomato-juice products at the Napoleon plant, the company's largest beverage production facility in North America, Faulkner said. All those products will be packaged in the PET bottles produced on-site, Faulkner said.
Campbell has another collocated alliance with Silgan Corp. to make metal cans for its juices, Faulkner said. But it has never produced PET bottles at one of its locations, he said. The demand by consumers for PET bottles changed that thinking, he said.
``We've been packaging juice in PET containers for the last couple of years,'' he said. ``We've shifted from glass to plastic, and the change has been widely accepted.''
The company also is making a move to plastic for its soup lines, especially those sold in ready-to-serve microwavable bowls, Faulkner said. The company invested another $38 million last year to upgrade a second building on the Napoleon campus where it makes soup, he said.
A portion of the improvements was used to integrate 16-ounce microwaveable bowls onto the soup lines and add more soup varieties, Faulkner said. Those plastic bowls still are sourced from outside suppliers, he said.
The Napoleon complex employs more than 1,200 people in the small Ohio city and even has its own power plant and water-treatment facility, Faulkner said. The V8 juices have been one of the company's fastest-growing product lines, especially with a move to healthier diets, he said.
``There's a healthy buzz around tomato [beverage] products,'' Faulkner said. ``V8 is touted as part of the South Beach diet and as a vegetable-conscious alternative. The PET bottles are helping us hit the market [stronger] because of their convenience.''