Last year, Fowler Products (www.fowlerproducts.com), powered by Pro Mach and Zalkin sponsored the Application Fundamentals of Aluminum Closures (AFAC) conference, a non-commercial symposium attended by a who’s who of Spirits, Wine, Beer and Soft Drink brand owners. The conference delivered information on what it takes to successfully implement projects associated with roll-on-pilfer-proof (ROPP) aluminum closures. The more than 60 attendees had an intensive day and a half immersion into the fundamentals responsible for a successful marriage of bottle, cap, and capping heads machine. The success of this first AFAC has prompted organizers to begin planning a follow up conference in the near future.
Aluminum bottle closures, often called “screw caps” in the wine industry, or by the Amcor brand name, “Stelvin caps”, are, in actuality, ROPP closures that are available from a host of manufacturers. The original ROPP technology was developed nearly 50 years ago in France and was used on many packages before the introduction of the plastic screw-on cap. Over the past decade, however, ROPP closures have been regaining widespread acceptance in the wine and spirits industries as well as some speciality beverages and food products, such as olive oil, and most recently, for aluminum bottle applications for carbonated beverages, including soft drinks and beer.
Wine industry provides an example of ROPP growth
A study by Wine Business Monthly found growing consumer acceptance of ROPP closures. The June 2011 closure survey concludes:
“The usage of screw caps continues to be boosted by an increasing impression among winemakers that consumers’ opinions of the closures are improving. And although natural corks remain the most widely used closure – 78 percent of responding wineries use natural cork for at least part of their 750 ml bottles – alternatives are being used more for low- and mid-priced wines, and are now even being considered for use with wines at price-points of $25 and above.”
There are a number of reasons that ROPP closures are being applied in ever increasing numbers in the wine, spirits, soft drink, and beer industries. These include:
- Greater shelf appeal through the wide variety of colors and styles – product differentiation
- Improved product protection in terms of taste – superior barrier protection against oxygen ingress and carbonation loss
- Tamper-evident protection provided through the integral pilfer band
- Brand protection from counterfeiting through the use of non-refillable fitments
- Price stability and assured supply versus the limited availability of high-quality natural corks
- Flexibility – can be used for hot-fill, carbonated, or retort applications
- Containers can be resealed – which cannot be done with crown closures or corks
Demand outstripping application knowledge
“As a capping equipment company, we see an enormous resurgence in the demand for ROPP closures,” says Andy Monroe, sales and marketing manager for Fowler. “To be successfully implemented, ROPP closure technology requires the application expertise on the part of the brand owner and, ideally, close cooperation from the bottle manufacturer, closure supplier, and capping machine supplier. Successfully implementing a creatively designed, attractive package must have the appropriate underpinning of technical knowledge.”
AFAC conference summary
Following welcoming introductions to the AFAC conference by representatives of Fowler and Zalkin,a spokesperson forSilgan White Cap covered the fundamentals of short flange ROPP closures, including what these closures are, where they are used, and why. Amcor Flexibles then gave a presentation on Long Flange aluminum closures where they shared some manufacturing techniques as well as highlighting their capabilities in producing highly decorative closures that provide a stunning appearance for a finished package. The third speaker on closures was Guala Closures Group whose presentation detailed the many systems they offer for brand security in terms of tamper evidence technologies and non-refillable insert technologies to protect brand owners from counterfeiting.
Containers need optimized designs for ROPP
Three presentations on the design considerations for containers – Glass, PET, and Aluminum – were given at the AFAC. These were presented by spokespeople from Owens Illinois, Amcor Rigid Plastics, and Coca-Cola. The detailed container presentations, complete with technical schematics, focused on the bottle dimensions and geometry critical to the successful marriage of ROPP closures and containers. These three presentations drove home the point that container geometry must be optimized for ROPP closures in order to ensure highest throughput and lowest downtime.
With containers and ROPP closures covered, the conference moved on to the principles of ROPP capping heads, troubleshooting the heads on the packaging line, and troubleshooting defects. Attendees were introduced to key components of the capping heads and how the capping heads actually form both long and short flange ROPP closures on the containers. In the presentation on troubleshooting defects, common problems and probable causes were discussed with close-up images of ROPP closures illustrating key points. Common problems included skewed applications/off center strike, rollers remain in groove and do not follow thread, rollers cut through a thread at start level, rollers cut through lower level, thread starts too low, poorly formed threads, pilfer-proof ring not formed under neck, and many others.
Taking the conference beyond presentations, there was a panel discussion and then hands-on demonstrations at the conference center and production machine demonstrations at the nearby Fowler Products facility.
Overall, the attendees rated the conference in a post conference survey with 97% responding that they would attend the conference again and 100% responding that they would recommend the conference to a colleague. One attendee said in survey response, “The information presented at the conference matched up perfectly with my expectation based upon preconference promotional material. The bullet points outlined in the key areas of discussion were all thoroughly explored.” Another wrote, “The conference exceeded my expectations in terms of content and participation.”
Those interested in receiving notification of upcoming AFAC conferences and subject matter experts wishing to present should send topic areas of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. Presentations are non-commercial and focused entirely on helping beverage and food products companies successfully apply the latest in ROPP closure technology.