Emergent Technologies, a business incubation services company that takes ideas from concept to commercialization, introduced in cooperation with Plastic Technologies Inc., a two-compartment PET-bottle, baptised The Smiler.
The ball shaped bottle, in itself, is not original. Some years ago OGO-Water introduced a ball shaped 330 ml PET-bottle for its oxygen enriched mineral water, designed by the renowned Paris-designer of Japanese origin Ora Ito.
In 2006 Coca-Cola introduced in the country where “football is king” the “CopaBola”, a 400ml football-shaped PET-bottle, commemorating the chance that Brazil could conquer its sixth world football championship. Later Coca-Cola brought during Christmas a 250ml ball shaped bottle with a shrink sleeve from Sleever International, an OPS-base film because its 60% superior shrink ratio offers such an immaculate finish. The sleeve features ten-colour, including gold and silver inks, gravure printing.
So, nothing new then? Well, the ball shaped PET-bottle from Emergent Technologies and Plastic Technologies, is a first-of-its-kind. It is a two-compartment polyethylene terephthalate (PET) container. The concept gives brand owners the opportunity to market a single-serving of two compatible products – such as milk and cookies – within one portable container.
The proprietary Smiler technology enables bottles/containers to be injection blow moulded into different shapes and sizes. The larger, top compartment holds the liquid, while the bottom holds the snack item. Additionally, both can be used for dry products and/or non-food items.
The second or bottom compartment is created by drawing the base upwards which forms a small cavity into which a heat-sealed portion cup, containing solid, granular or powdered products, can be inserted and held by friction. The base opening can then be closed using a variety of heat-seal or pressure-sensitive materials or methods. The top compartment relies on a traditional finish and closure.
It looks as a simple solution. And it is. The only problem is, that it wasn’t that simple to manufacture, according to Scott Steele, vice president of PTI.
“We spent a lot of time looking for ways to push PET design and processing boundaries beyond what had previously been done. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make a base cavity that was deep enough to house a second product. We went through multiple iterations over a year-plus to make sure that both the design elements and the blow moulding process would meet performance objectives”.
For example, in early iterations, the depth of the base cavity would cause the bottle to get hung up in the mould. An additional piece of hardware had to be designed to positively extract the bottle from the mould.
On the material side of the fence, the objective was to get monolayer PET to work. PTI did not want to blend in additives to achieve performance attributes because that would negatively impact container prices, as well as have a potential negative effect on the recycling stream. The key was determining the optimum ratios between the bottom and top cavities, coupled with the finish diameter.
The first commercialization was a ball-shaped bottle used by Ohio Wesleyan University to help commemorate the signing of baseball legend Jackie Robinson by Branch Rickey (OWU ’04) of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The printed shrink-sleeve for this baseball was supplied by Century Label in Bowling Green, OH/USA.
Emergent and PTI are now looking to bring the concept to the attention of mainstream brand owners, aiming at the on-the-go market. With all the on-the-go eating we see today, people seem to like the idea of popular snack-and-drink combos that can simply ‘tide them over’ until they can sit down for a real meal.
Market research, carried out by PTI, shows, that a sizable number of consumers like the idea (and functionality) of getting a little less snack and a little less beverage for less than the cost of two full-sized products.