Finally I’m ready to complete my overview of developments in dispensing supplements in beverages. After my overview of dispensing caps, it’s time to move to a new technology as far as the beverage sector is concerned. With the introduction of energy pods we enter a new era for dispensing sensitive supplements to water to create an energy or personally designed sports drink.
The technology of pods an sich isn’t new and as such some history telling is required.
With the growing consciousness of the consumer for the well-being of Mother Earth and the often loudly expressed concern about wasting valuable resources, some years ago the consumer goods industry had a brainwave and started to promote concentrated household cleaning products under the green-washing sustainability and eco-friendly banner, while at the same time downsizing the packaging.
During this wave of concentrating household cleaners, we also saw a tentative approach towards refilling. However despite the growing wish to go eco-friendly the consumer, worldwide, rebuffed the offered refilling options due to the awkwardness and inconvenience of most refilling systems and the trend as well as the packaging involved never came off the ground.
While the refilling trend faced an inglorious death, some inventors started to take a look at the problem and came up with some interesting solutions. Based upon the idea of the cartridge (sometimes called capsule) used in many industrial and commercial applications (think of printers and copiers) the pod (as the Americans like to call it) for household cleaners was born.
A pod is a small rigid replaceable container holding the concentrated cleaner. The pod is often connected at the bottom of the main container, which holds in general tap water to dilute the concentrated cleaner. In difference to the dispensing cap, the pod is not a fixed appliance, a one-flavour or vitamin shot, or a one-time liquid in a bottle that’s then discarded. The pod with the concentrate is replaceable and the bottle itself is used again and again.
One of the first to put this idea in practice was Replenish. The pod of cleaner concentrate screws into the bottom of the bottle. To make the cleaner, the consumer turns the bottle upside down, squeezes the concentrate pod to fill up a measuring cup built into the inside of the bottle, and adds water. Replenish’ pods hold enough concentrate for four water downed bottles and can stay attached to the spray bottle as long as needed. The idea for the consumer is to reuse the spray bottle over and over again, buy a new pod with cleaner concentrate, screw it into the bottom and refill the spray bottle itself with tap water. It’s obvious that the eco footprint of the system is much smaller than that of the traditional bottles with household cleaner, even in the concentrated form.
More or less at the same time came an interestingly different design from Canada. In contrast to Replenish, Canadian Planet People’s iQ bottles have the cartridges of concentrate positioned inside the bottle neck. The consumer fills the PET bottle with tap water and inserts a no-mess, self-deploying PP cartridge into the neck of the bottle.
For some unknown reason the use of pods has, for a long time, been restricted to cleaning products and only with a restricted number of designs. Probably it was the only sector where the craze of concentrating products and the failed introduction of refilling systems took hold, while the exorbitant and overindulgent use of packaging material and primary resources was even for the most ingenuous consumer crystal clear.
Recently the pod-system moved to the beverage sector and particularly to the vitamin enhanced sports and energy drinks, as there are three discerned characteristics in the pod-system ideal for use in the fortified beverage packaging.
First it is the secure separation of the sensitive to water vitamins and supplements, secondly dispensing caps only can handle a very limited volume of supplement, and thirdly the system is based upon the unrestricted reusability of the main container (the bottle holding the water or main liquid), so that the consumer only has to buy the pod with its supplements to create a new serving of an energy drink.
It’s amazing to see it took the beverage industry so long to accept the concept of the cartridge, i.E the pod or capsule, as an alternative to the existing dispensing caps with all its complexity and well-known shortcomings. But here we are, so let’s take a look at what’s in the pod-technology for beverages.
My first example is a bit special and out of line, as it isn’t exactly responding to the basic characteristics of the pod for beverages, which is the storage of a vitamin supplement with the ability to mix it with the refillable water bottle. But the U-Boot represents for me the most beautiful solution in pod-land and has numerous possibilities.
A U-Boot is a beer cocktail (popular in Germany, Poland, Serbia and Flanders) that is made with a glass of beer and a shot glass of vodka. In Germany, the liquor korn is used instead, while in Flanders and the Netherlands, jonge jenever is preferred.
It is called a U-Boot (German abbreviation of Unterseeboot, “submarine”) because the shot glass of spirits sinks to the bottom of the glass of beer. The shot glass then “surfaces” when the cocktail is drunk.
The German company U-Boot Getränke introduced its classic drink to the retail market. The U-Boot drink was available for decades only in selected restaurants and pubs.
In this case the classic “U-Boot” is a schnapps glass filled with high-proof spirits that is dropped into a glass with soda. Greiner Packaging developed the “bottle-in-the-bottle” concept and mastered the challenge of functionality and product safety. Both bottles are sealed with the same cap which, when unscrewed, detaches the smaller inner bottle, the “U-Boot”, from the seal. The U-Boot then sinks in the bigger outer bottle
The 30ml spirit inner bottle as well as the 140ml soda outer bottle is made from PET by injection stretch blow moulding, while the HDPE seal is injected. The outer bottle is printed with screen print with UV drying colours and the seal is printed with pad printing. There is one seal for both bottles, the small bottle has a snap-on neck and the large bottle a screw-top neck.
According to Zenith International speaking at the Global Soft Drinks Congress in Dubai in March last year, beverage technology both inside and outside the home has to allow consumers to make their own drinks when and where they choose.
And the perfect answer to personalization of a beverage is the pod-system. But apparently we are very early in the development cycle of pods for beverages as I could only find one more example, namely the Drinkfinity of PepsiCo, a design later also used for the Gatorade Hydration Tracking Bottle. The Drinkfinity is a completely different design compared to the U-Boot, and in no way similar to the pod systems for household cleaner.
In November 2013 PepsiCo launched Drinkfinity in Brazil, describing it as a “personal beverage hydration system”.
Drinkfinity, developed by PepsiCo’s Global Packaging R&D in collaboration with the Selig Group, consists of a PET pod holding liquid flavour concentrate, a specially engineered PP closure for the pod that holds powdered nutrients, and a hinged-top plastic bottle to be filled with either mineral or tap water into which the liquid and dry ingredients stored in the pod are mixed.
To enjoy the beverage, the consumer has to remove the pressure-sensitive label from the pod’s closure, inverts the pod and positions it into the top chamber of the reuseable plastic drinking bottle (called by PepsiCo “vessel”). By closing the hinged chamber, the closure breaks and pierces the sealing membrane, releasing the powders and liquid supplement concentrate into the bottle into which the consumer has added (mineral or tap) water.
The 24-oz vessel is a reusable portable bottle with a sleek and stylish design. The Pods are capsules utilizing DuoSeal induction seal technology to separate active liquid and powder ingredients until they are mixed together with the water just prior to consumption.
Each pod has a liquid and powder compartment, which allows specific beverage ingredients to be delivered in the most optimized and natural format. When the seal of the pod is pierced, the liquid and powder components are mixed with the water in the bottle to create a unique and fresh beverage.
The pods are convenient, portable, and offer a wide range of functional benefits and supplement options. They are also recyclable, and because water is not being unnecessarily shipped in traditional plastic water bottles, the net environmental impact is reduced.
Gatorade Hydration Tracking Bottle
After the introduction of the Drinkfinity, PepsiCo decided to use the pod system for the Gatorade Hydration Tracking Bottle. The Gatorade Hydration Tracking Bottle is part of the Hydration Tracking System developed to better meet the needs of professional and competitive athletes during training and match sessions. The objective was to develop an enhanced side line bottle that fuelled customization and tracked hydration. The new bottle combines the functional aspects of the existing iconic green/orange side line squeeze bottle, a new customizable Gatorade pod concentrate system and a new wireless metering cap.
The bottle is original Gatorade, the pod system is borrowed from Drinkfinity, but what makes this beverage bottle special is the metering system. The new Gatorade squeeze bottle integrates a proprietary hydration tracking technology that measures and records real-time athlete fluid consumption during training and matches. To record in-training or in-match athlete dehydration, the platform also utilizes weigh-in scales to measure sweat loss. All tracking data is transmitted from each athlete’s cap and the shared weigh-in scales to the system via wireless Bluetooth communication.
Each athlete’s individual hydration recommendation and tracking data are accessible on iPads running the Gatorade Hydration Application. The coaching staff can monitor athletes’ fluid loss/intake and better guide appropriate fluid, fuel and electrolyte replacement recommendations on an individual basis, to help ensure peak performances during training and matches. The system also allows the coaching staff to analyse and act on longer term hydration patterns at an individual and team level.
Well, that’s the story about pods for beverages so far. It’s not much but hopeful. Let’s see that it sparks some creativity in the beverage industry and that no idiotic company in the future is introducing a new energy or vitamin drink in a simple alu beverage can. That’s so 20th century, you sincerely hope that there are not any longer design companies sticking to that.