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Rexam invests in aluminium bottles

Notwithstanding challenging market conditions 2009 remains an exciting period for product innovation, according to Stephen Howell, Rexam’s breakthrough innovation manager

The UK-based beverage can manufacturer has recently introduced an aluminium Bottle called Fusion to the market and, says Howell, “customers are now converting their initial curiosity about the possibilities it has to offer into development projects because they recognize the opportunity it creates to differentiate and add value to premium brands. It’s contemporary, modern, fun, cool, virtually unbreakable and sophisticated.”

Rexam has so far invested over €5 million in the development of the Fusion bottle culminating in the installation of a pilot line at Rexam’s European R&D Centre in the UK last May. The Pilot Line produces bottles for line filling trials, customer marketing samples and technical development. The Fusion production facility is now HACCP qualified and bottles coming off the line are washed and ready for filling upon delivery.

In June 2009 work will begin on the latest Fusion investment, a fourth Frattini necking turret which is an addition to the existing three turret system. This will enable Rexam to offer customised exclusive bottle shapes to customers using full body necking.

In partnership with selected contract fillers, Rexam are working towards being able to offer a complete packaging solution to the market in readiness for full commercial production. Stephen Howell explains: ”Some customers want the flexibility of being able to exploit Fusion without using their own filling lines; hence providing them with fully qualified filling locations is an important element in ensuring that we support the creation of the market for DWI resealable aluminium bottles.”

Recent consumer research commissioned by Rexam and conducted in London, Amsterdam, and Milan showed an 18% overall preference for the drinking experience from an aluminium bottle over glass. Further research has been commissioned by Rexam to explore consumer perceptions of the value proposition Fusion offers.

In 2008 Rexam also commissioned an extensive research project which identified six “mega trends” that influenced and determined purchasing decisions. The triggers are: convenience (‘on the go’), health, i.e. products that promote a health benefit; sensory, where consumers are looking for a pack that creates a sensory stimulus such as being cold to the touch, or with distinctive print and varnish finishes that create texture or even glow in the dark; individualism, products and brands that are targeted at specific socio-economic, gender and age demographics; comfort, with an emphasis on home and family life where the use of particular products are seen as outward manifestation of a value system; and finally, connectivity, where products and brands are associated with sharing and relationship building through a set of collective aspirations.  

In addition to these mega trends Rexam recognised the effect that age and peer influence have on consumption choices.

50% of product choices are made spontaneously at the point of purchase meaning that on-shelf impact and easy brand recognition are crucial. “This is just one example where Rexam’s portfolio of beverage cans and the new Fusion bottle score highly, by providing a blank canvass upon which brand owners can create,” says Howell. Unlike glass or PET it can be printed over 100% of its surface area including the closure. And the bright, reflective aluminium sub-straight enhances the impact.

“Packaging innovation will continue to play a pivotal role in driving the drinks industry forward with an emphasis on enhancing the drinking experience for the consumer. This drive will be coupled with communicating the positive message on sustainability that metal beverage packaging has to offer. As more and more cans and Fusion bottles are recycled the overall carbon footprint of the pack continues to decrease. Currently the European recycling rate averages at 60% making the beverage can the most recycled pack format globally,” concludes Howell.

Fusion is currently available in 33cl, 25cl and 20cl serving sizes with three closure options, resealable ROPP, Standard Crown and Maxi P Ring Pull crowns.

1 May 2009 - Felicity Murray