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Crystallized neck thread finish stymies heat distortion; makes hot-fill PET alluring to more beverage processors.

Today, juices that can be packaged in hot-filled PET are said to represent a 2-billion-unit market--and that's not even including single-serve sizes. According to some estimates, hot-tillable PET currently holds about a one-third share of the U.S. juice market. Ocean Spray, Quaker (Gatorade), Gerber, Beech-Nut, Coca-Cola Co. (Hi-C and PowerAde), Procter & Gamble (Hawaiian Punch), and Knouse are among the growing number of familiar company/brand names which now include hot-tilled PET as one of their packaging options for consumers.

Numerous regional juice brands also are adding this packaging choice, as are several processors of teas and isotonic beverages. High clarity, lightness of weight, shatter resistance, 100% recyclability, and reliable non-refrigerated product shelf life are among the attributes contributing to the expanded use of hot-tillable PET bottles.

Only a handful of suppliers are manufacturing hot-tillable PET containers to serve this quickly emerging market. One, Johnson Controls, holds the exclusive license for Yoshino PET heat-setting technology in the U.S. and Europe. Yoshino is the largest producer of PET containers in Japan. Having held this exclusive license since 1988, Johnson has successfully applied the technology to high-output production systems.

The patented Yoshino technology provides for a crystallized finish and a specialized bottle manufacturing technique that results in a higher maximum fill temperature capability than is possible with conventional heat-set containers. The crystallized neck feature, along with base push-up and special waist design, combine to prevent container distortion and shrinkage and neck/mouth "ovalizing" at high filling temperatures. In fact, the crystallized neck finish reportedly maintains tolerances at elevated temperatures exceeding 200 F without softening.

Performance studies of crystallized finish versus non-crystallized finish containers conducted by Johnson Controls indicate that a non-crystallized finish actually begins to soften at about 172 F. The tests also show that the critical dimensions of a non-crystallized finish change significantly at a fill temperature of 185 F. Softening of PET bottle necks can cause capping efficiency problems and cap-to-bottle fusion problems which seriously impair openability and closeability. Since the crystallized finish retains its shape at elevated temperatures, finish stability for cap application is ensured. This results in more consistent cap application and avoidance of cap-to-bottle fusion.

According to Doug Svik, Johnson Controls Manager of Marketing Services, the unique technology has opened the processing window for packagers of hot-filled juices and drinks, allowing higher fill temperatures with better container performance. "The wider processing window means that occasional spikes in filling temperatures will result in less bottle failures." In addition, points out Svik, the technology allows processors to consistently fill at temperatures sufficient to retard product spoilage. This makes PET containers available to products with temperature requirements that may not be met by more conventional heat-set containers. "What's at stake here is product integrity, consumer acceptability, and process runnability," he emphasized.

A cost premium does exist with heat-set PET. However, the savings associated with lower freight costs because of lightness of weight and with reduction of damaged goods because of shatter-resistance, offer a cost balance against glass packaging.

The patented, crystallized-finish PET containers, which also feature patented label panel design, are available in three stock sizes--16-oz, 32-oz, and 64-oz. Custom-produced bottles meeting rigid user specifications also can be developed with complete confidentiality.

Details about patented Heat Handler[TM] hot-tillable PET containers and about the crystallized versus noncrystallized performance comparison studies may be obtained from Johnson Controls, Inc., Plastic Container Div., 912 City Rd., Manchester, MI 48158.
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Title Annotation:polyethylene
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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