Amcor Rigid Plastics, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of rigid plastic packaging for food, beverage, spirits, personal/home care and healthcare industries, has announced a major new business platform to facilitate small-volume production for emerging beverage companies who seek to reach the market more cost effectively and established high-volume suppliers who want to explore niche markets. Amcor’s UpStart program works closely with growing start-ups like Alkaline Water Co., Scottsdale, Ariz., by providing a flexible and cost-effective system to launch niche products and conduct test marketing.
“Our goal is to assist regional and emerging brands with launching their new, custom products and then scale them up to larger equipment platforms,” said Frank Lin, director of marketing for Amcor Rigid Plastics’ Beverage Unit. “In addition, customers are able to experience our full suite of capabilities, including design services, engineering and development, laboratory, and other technical services.” 
In the past, tooling costs to outfit large-cavity injection tools and large-scale blow molding equipment could approach more than $1 million. This made it cost prohibitive for some customers to conduct market testing and perform small-volume manufacturing before introducing new products.
UpStart targets the emerging beverage producer who needs lower volume but wants access to the resources of a leading supplier and the established high-volume player who wants to explore niche markets, target regional products with lower demand, or test new products. Among the key benefits of UpStart are the ability to launch products at lower volumes with regional production and a nationwide manufacturing network to support simultaneous regional launches. In addition, UpStartTM offers significant savings in capital investment versus the standard high-volume production scenario, reducing tooling cost by to 75% and affording bottle production with a wide range of technologies, finishes, and shapes. Both established and emerging beverage companies gain access to Amcor’s world-class design, engineering, and production resources, as well as advanced technologies. UpStartTM is designed for a smooth transition to medium- and large-volume production platforms when demand grows.
Amcor’s dedicated network of small-volume platforms (injection molding and blow molding) are located at four U.S. sites including Chino, Calif., Allentown, Pa., Wytheville, Va., and Ames, Iowa. These locations provide cavitation up to 24 cavities along with small-scale blow equipment. Additionally, these platforms are located near co-packers who fill products for market trials to offer potential freight savings with bottle delivery.
Amcor supplies its new collection of SophiTM cylindrical polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in 500ml, 700ml, and 1L sizes for Alkaline Water Co.’s Alkaline88 premier alkaline drinking water with an 8.8-pH balance. The company, an emerging leader in the enhanced water category, uses state-of-the-art electrochemically activated (ECA) water to create 8.8-pH drinking water without the use of chemicals.
The ECA process uses specialized electronic cells coated with a variety of rare earth minerals to produce scientifically engineered water. This technical advantage positions Alkaline 88 above other alkaline waters on the market today, according to Alkaline Water. The water’s 84 beneficial trace Himalayan minerals make Alkaline 88 unique, providing health benefits including proper pH balance to help fight disease and boost the immune system. Himalayan pink salt has a rich mineral content that includes over 84 minerals and trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron.
Alkaline Water Co., founded in May 2013, is experiencing phenomenal growth, with a 570% growth rate over the last year and sales just over $1 million per month. The company is rated by Nielsen as the top supplier of alkaline water in southern California and the Southwest.  Alkaline Water sells to 37 of the top 75 U.S. grocery accounts and has multiple distribution channels including direct store distribution (DSD) for small bottles and a network of Anheuser-Busch distributors and independent carbonated soft drink (CSD) and non-alcoholic drink distributors.
Alkaline Water’s president and CEO, Steven Nickolas, a 37-year veteran of the beverage and food science industries, said the relationship with Amcor has delivered major benefits, enabling the company to meet its burgeoning growth. “Before, you couldn’t go to Amcor and buy direct unless you were a major beverage company,” said Nickolas. “We’ve been extremely pleased because this program has helped us alleviate our shortage issue because Amcor keeps a large inventory.”
Broad availability of Amcor bottles on the East and West coasts enabled Alkaline Water to streamline and standardize its offering across the U.S., relying less on different manufacturers with varied style containers. Nickolas noted Amcor’s customer service and overall quality which is far superior to smaller manufacturers. “Their assistance has allowed us to grow at this phenomenal pace,” he said.
In addition to the smaller PET bottles which are supplied from its five contracted facilities in southern California, Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Ohio, Alkaline Water is exploring the potential of Amcor supplying PET containers for the company’s 3L product.