Invento offers blow molded can

May 27, 2016

There's another plastic can on the market. The new product of Invento Americas Inc., Sheboygan, Wis., is similar to existing plastic cans, with a plastic body and an aluminum top. But Invento's blow molded product is aimed more toward beverage makers than its competitors.

Invento, a subsidiary of Invento Sp. zo.o. in Warsaw, Poland, began producing its plastic can in March at its plant in Sheboygan, where it has the capacity to make 100 million annualized units. William Brandell, the U.S. subsidiary's president and managing partner, said a global energy drink company is the first user of the new cans, which should hit store shelves next month. He declined to name the brand.

Invento's can joins two similar products: the injection molded Klear Can made with technology introduced by Milacron Holdings Corp., Cincinnati, at last year's NPE, and the TruVue clear can that Sonoco Products Co., Hartsville, S.C., makes using its Fusion Freshlock extrusion equipment.

The technology to make the Invento can began to take shape in Poland in about 2007. According to the company, the technology behind the plastic can is built around the preform itself and the processing equipment, supplied by TES, a specialty blow molding machine maker in Gdańsk, Poland. Using a two-stage blow molding and stretching process, TES' SilverLine machines can make PET cans with capacities ranging from 0.25 liter to 1 liter.

Brandell said Invento is taking aim at a different niche than makers of other plastic cans.

"They are approaching their market in a different fashion than we are," Brandell said. "Ours is very focused on the beverage. And theirs is starting with food and products of that nature. But they're larger, more diverse companies."

Like the other plastic cans, though, Brandell said the Invento product has great marketing potential. He cited several advantages over both PET bottles and aluminum cans. "If you have a vivid color of your beverage, it shows off. [In contrast,] a lot of the interest has come from the sparkling water companies that want to show a beverage in a clear container. And they can do some very interesting things with labeling and shapes that you can't actually do with aluminum cans."

The can's labeling and shape flexibility can provide a marketing advantage for special events such as the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, Brandell said, the plastic cans cost less to fill than PET bottles, and the logistics are easier, as well. He acknowledged the plastic cans are a little more expensive than 100-percent aluminum containers. "Yeah, there's a small premium over standard aluminum cans, but the marketing people can justify that. Because it's innovative."

Brandell stressed that the product is a supplementary package that doesn't replace anything. It can drop into existing aluminum can-filling lines without any significant modifications. "We don't need specialty fill-in lines or specialty adapters."

The aluminum can industry runs at nearly full capacity, so new players in the market often have to place an order for a large run. With its technology, Invento is hoping to meet demand for smaller production runs.

"There's an infrastructure out there for beverage filling in the aluminum can filling lines," Brandell said. "And there's excess capacity in those. So we wanted something that could take advantage [of that] or help our co-packers or bottlers. There are other options in the future."

The materials are 100 percent recyclable.

Invento's Sheboygan facility currently has one production line with two blow molding machines. The company expects to have an identical line going at the end of the fourth quarter, which would give the operation capacity for 200 million to 250 million bottles.

In addition, the company is discussing adapting its patented preform design technology with other linear blow mold equipment manufacturers.

The Invento plastic can now can be used for cold-fill beverages and carbonated sodas,  but the company also has hot-fill technology, which is suitable for juice blends. It's also researching barrier technology for beverages such as beer. That might be a year away unless it forms a partnership; so far, it has received offers from PET container companies and beer companies.

Brandell says Invento already is looking to expand in the United States, with possible additional locations in the Southeast and Southwest next year.

Allan Gerlat, correspondent

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