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Aluminum

Bottles up

By John Loos

August 2009 - Have you ever been to a metals industry event where water and soda was supplied in plastic bottles? It may seem insignificant to some, but others might argue it's as counterintuitive as serving sticky candy at a dental industry convention.

Although the aluminum can is a cornerstone of beverage packaging, its cousin, the aluminum bottle, has been viewed as more of a curiosity. That may be changing as more beverage companies are considering aluminum bottles to package not only soda but also beer, vitamin-infused water, energy drinks and juices.

Introduced in Japan in 2000 and in the North American market in 2001, the aluminum bottle has become steadily more visible as companies such as Coca-Cola, Snapple, Heineken and Anheuser-Busch have taken advantage of its sleek design possibilities, often for new beverage products or limited-edition runs.

Although aluminum bottles have yet to truly break into the mainstream, they're finding success in niche marketing strategies, such as being an upscale option to glass bottles, or perpetuating the alternative feel of a new, eye-catching beverage. Examples include the Heineken H2 bottle, aluminum-bottled wine from companies such as Elk & Wolf and Mommessin, and the Vacation in a Bottle vitamin beverage from ViB Holdings LLC, Dallas.

Introducing Alumi-Tek
At the forefront of the aluminum bottle battle has been the Alumi-Tek from Ball Corp., Broomfield, Colo. The Alumi-Tek bottle is lightweight, resealable, recyclable and available in 8-ounce, 12-ounce and 16-ounce versions. According to Ball, it's also 50 percent lighter than the average aluminum bottle.

In 2006, Ball Corp., an aluminum can producer, was the first company to license and manufacture aluminum bottles outside of Japan, and it had a major boost in 2008 when its 16-ounce version of its Alumi-Tek design was used by Miller Lite.

"This package drinks like a bottle and cools like a can to deliver an invigorating taste experience," said Grant Leech, vice president of marketing for Miller Lite, in a press release.

And in June, the Alumi-Tek bottle became the vessel of choice for Live Young Forever Citrus, a vitamin-enhanced water beverage featuring the ECGC antioxidant from Live Young Forever Heath and Wellness, Edmonton, Alberta.

"I am bringing products to market that are as natural as possible and may improve overall health," said Gwen Miles, CEO of LYF, in a press release. "This bottle provides a perfect vessel for these products because it has a very distinct and premium image that is consistent with the benefits the beverage offers. Plus, it's reclosable, tamper-resistant, chills quickly and is 100 percent recyclable."

Alumi-Tek bottles have also been used for coffee, infant formula, tea and juices, evidence that as beverage companies look for sustainable and dynamic ways to package their products, aluminum will continue to provide an attractive alternative to plastic or glass.

And perhaps, before long, they'll be the norm at metals industry conferences and conventions across the country. MM

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