Tampa, Fla. — Sonoco Products Co. is working to dramatically expand production of the company's plastic TruVue food can and expects to have that added capacity in place later this year.
With the launch of the first products in the TruVue can by McCall Farms, Sonoco sees the potential to greatly expand the use of the polypropylene can that uses steel ends.
“We are working with no less than 20 companies right now. And we are at various stages,” said Steven Gendreau, division vice president of sales and marketing for global plastics at Sonoco. “Many of our customers are already deep or completed with their shelf-life testing.”
Sonoco currently produces the TruVue can, which is extruded, at the company's Innovative Packaging Solutions Studio at its headquarters in Hartsville, S.C.
“Right now we have a production line, but it's scaled for a more pilot environment,” Gendreau said. Still, this initial line has the ability to produce “tens of millions” of TruVue cans each year, he said.
But Sonoco is anticipating even greater demand thanks to the recent McCall Farms launch.
“It's really helping with confidence because there has been so many false starts with plastic cans,” Gendreau said about other companies in the past.
“The [canning] industry tends to be very risk adverse for all the right reasons. So we're working to help them navigate through that, and some companies are more willing to take that on than others. So it's going to be in some cases a pulling in, and then others are really pushing us now, especially now that they've seen [McCall Farms'] product out.”
Sonoco already has ordered one new high-speed line to produce TruVue cans and is contemplating another. The new equipment is expected to be in place later this year. While Gendreau declined to provide a specific dollar amount, he did say the investment will cost millions of dollars.
“It's significant for these kinds of lines,” he said.
The packaging company currently is in the process of determining where to establish the expanded production.
“We've ordered a very high-speed line already that we're going to be in the process of installing. It's going to be able to produce well in excess of 100 million containers,” Gendreau said at the recent Packaging Conference in Tampa.
While currently considering geographic placement of the new line, the company also is thinking about whether it makes sense to install a second line as well. That would give Sonoco one for the east and one for the west to help with logistics. The company has existing space within its plastics business to house the new production.
The vice president said Sonoco recognizes the potential of the TruVue can to create company growth.
“It's a big challenge to drive organic growth. So when you have something you believe in, you take the risk. And I think we're demonstrating and we'll get out ahead of the market in order to allow them to convert and have the security of supply,” he said. “You've got to take risk to drive organic growth.”
“We have a vision to do multiple lines,” Gendreau said.