EU Directive 2019/904 mandates that all plastic caps must remain attached to beverage bottles with a capacity of up to 3 l after opening by July 3, 2024 at the latest. When it entered into force in 2019, the directive posed a significant challenge to the beverage industry.
Bericap, a well-known manufacturer of plastic and aluminium closures, is equipped to meet that challenge. The company said that more than six billion beverage bottles have already been manufactured and marketed with the Clip Aside tethered cap solution, and that figure continues to rise exponentially. The closures are available for all relevant neck fiishes from 26 to 38 mm in all beverage categories, including carbonated soft drinks (CSD), water, juice and tea drinks, as well as milk products. The tethered cap solution is used on over 70 bottling lines in all beverage segments. One of these customers is Eckes-Granini, a leading supplier of fruit juices and fruit beverages in Europe.
A new situation that calls for strong partners
2019 was an exciting year for the independent family-owned company based in Nieder-Olm, Germany, as it was for the entire industry. “We were busy setting up internal expert panels, analysing market studies and collaborating with established suppliers, such as our long-standing closure supplier Bericap,” recalled Tobias Schardt, Senior Expert Packaging & Technology at Eckes-Granini. “We soon identified the main priorities in the tethered closure development process. One was to ensure that disposable bottles were still easy to drink from, especially the popular bottle sizes of up to 0.5 l that people carry around with them,” summed up Thomas Henkel, Sales Director Beverage Closures at Bericap. “But it was also important for people to intuitively know how to open and close the bottles. Of the various design solutions initially pursued, the “Clip Aside” design was a clear winner in all criteria and from all perspectives: consumer, bottler and manufacturer.”
Environmental protection meets technology
To consistently implement the EU directive and think ahead in terms of its environmental footprint, Eckes-Granini focused on another aspect besides tethered caps: the modification of the neck finish to achieve significant material savings. The company opted to switch over its leading brand “hohes C” to bottles with the PET 26/GME 30.40 neck finish. “That was obviously a bold business decision that reflected our willingness to invest in the conversion of our filling systems,” said Céline Bacigalupi, Senior Manager Packaging & Technology at Eckes-Granini. The investment delivered impressive results because the quantity of plastic pellets required to manufacture the bottle and closure has been significantly reduced.
Support in every detail
In the future, Bericap’s Clip Aside tethered caps will be used with all the major Eckes-Granini brands – from hohes C and granini to Joker, Pago, Rynkeby and Brämhults. Line by line, joint project teams handled the preparations to switch over to the new closure generations, and custom solutions were developed for the different closure types on bottles of various sizes and designs. This meant developing detailed solutions for numerous sub-variants, all based on the general Clip Aside concept. “We have always been committed to providing our customers with comprehensive support,” said Thomas Henkel. “So we brought our technical upstream suppliers on board. Millions of euros of investments in moulds and processing equipment were essential to meet future demand for Clip Aside at the Eckes-Granini bottling plants.”
The work is almost finished: the new tethered caps have been validated on each of the filling lines, the new moulds have been put into operation at Bericap and production has been ramped up. The focus is now on optimising line efficiency and ensuring the technically correct application of the closures. The Bericap technical service team is providing on-site support to establish the optimum settings together with bottlers and machine manufacturers. “The last lines are scheduled to be converted in May,” said Tobias Schardt. “Thanks to Bericap’s innovative Clip Aside caps, we’ll be compliant with the EU’s tethering requirements before July 2024. At the same time, it’s great to know that we’re helping to reduce plastic material usage in every Eckes-Granini bottle we sell.”