I ended my part 02 of this series about dispensing caps with the remark that I haven’t yet seen a design I was hoping to see. Despite all claims of the recent developments they don’t come even close to a useful stand-alone dispensing cap and they still maintain the obligation to the consumer to buy a bottle of water he/she doesn’t want. Some of the designs, indeed, can be sold as a stand-alone single-serve cap, but only for PET bottles with the correct neck finish. Nothing universal.
As happens so often when I write an article about a particular packaging format, I receive emails from designers, inventors and companies trying to draw my attention to their developed product. So, also this time. Consequently I had to rewrite this part to ensure the new dispensing cap was included, as it is something special that perfectly fits into a part of my comments. So before I come to that invention, I continue my story with the critical comments I promised my readers.
In general, in my opinion, all dispensing caps actually on the market are the same and useless in terms of universality. No one really is suitable to answer the requirement of the consumer to buy his/her supplements, vitamins or probiotics as a separate single-serve unit to connect it with the water bottle or yoghurt/milk beverage carton of his/her personal choice.
Am I harsh in my judgement? No, not really as it’s time for inventors to look at the consumer requirements before they start designing something new. At this moment when you are carrying out an analysis for your company to make a choice for a dispensing cap, you could choose any of them as they are basically all the same. Maybe with the exception of the Tap-the-Cap, as it offers a little bit more universality, but not enough as we will discuss in a moment.
What am I aiming at? Till this very moment the marketers of dispensing caps have been concentrating their sales efforts on the (spring) water market. But in the meantime the market is moving forward, particularly in the direction of flavoured and enriched dairy products.
Yoghurt drinks are often flavoured with fruit or fruit juice and can be enriched with vitamins, minerals with pre and probiotics. The success of ambient drinking yoghurt in China has been driven by consumer demand for convenience, taste and nutritional benefit. These trends are reflected in many other countries.
So what about flavoured milk and yoghurt drinks in general and in beverage cartons in particular? Tetra Pak claims in a recent report that the future of the dairy industry is in the fortified yogurt products. The report (Tetra Pak Dairy Index 2015: Innovate And Communicate To Revitalise Milk) states that yoghurt and milk based drinks continue to become more popular, with its possibility of combining healthy and functional properties with flavour and sensory appeal.
After reading this report, the question is: where is Tetra Pak’s dispensing cap particularly for its Evero bottle, or even for the most nominal (EloPak, SIG) beverage carton for that matter.
That question brings me to a newly designed dispensing cap, I received recently. The Flava Cap.
Although the company, which developed the Flava Cap, only speaks about its use as cap for PET bottles with water, when you look at the design and its mechanism it is probably a perfect solution for use on beverage cartons.
Ok, I agree, that beverage cartons (Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG) aren’t as popular in the USA as they are in Europe where almost all dairy products and many a fruit juice is marketed in a beverage carton That’s still some billions a year. I know, nothing compared to the billions of PET bottles, but, in my opinion, a much more interesting market, as the dispensing cap will be new to the beverage carton market and products marketed in cartons in general have a more “enriched” margin than bottles with mineral water.
Let’s have a look at this exceptional design. (Note: In a later stage I might write a more detailed article about this cap).
For the time being the following is sufficient to get a taste of the Flava Cap.
The Flava Cap, called by the inventor an infusion cap (which is a wrong characterisation of course as we will see when describing vitamin pods in the next article) is a “stand-alone” type, which is designed with a single multi-thread system that works effectively across all 26mm thru 28mm PET water bottle finishes. This is a key differentiating factor as it allows the consumer to use whatever single-serve bottle of water he/she wants. Furthermore the consumer has the option to use his own refillable bottle or refill the water bottle he bought, instead of throwing it into a landfill.
But I’m more interested in the options the consumer has to use the Flava Cap on a beverage carton. Look at the cross sectional views of the Flava Cap in different activation stages. The initial item that will likely catch the attention is that Flava Cap punch mechanism comes up from the bottom of the cap. This feature is different than 99% of all other infusion caps. This bottom up approach allows the Flava Cap to maintain its standard bottle cap appearance. The Flava Cap punch mechanism is activated automatically when the cap is twisted onto a bottle of water or the threaded neck of a beverage carton. The starter thread engages and then the top of the bottle mouth and the twisting compression ratchets up the Flava Cap mechanism.
As twisting is completed, the Flava Cap releases the drink mix. There are no knobs, buttons, levers, or plungers.
So, that`s enough food for thought in relation to the beverage carton.
And what are the manufacturers of beverage cans and its bottlers doing in this area of energy and enriched drinks? The technology isn’t new and known as the FreshCan technology. Already in its earliest development in the late 1990s by Ball Packaging Europe (then Schmalbach-Lubeca), the wedge consisted of a device fixed to the bottom of the can. Through many iterations based on prototypes produced by RPC Bramlage GmbH, the wedge evolved into a floating, watertight component that is designed to move away from the opening of the can during beverage consumption.
Meanwhile, in 2000, Degussa (then SKW Trostberg) began developing ingredient formulations to fill the wedge. Degussa also worked with partners to engineer an automated filling system to insert the ingredients into the wedges, as well as a wedge-insertion machine to put filled wedges into beverage cans.
In 2001, Ball licensed the wedge technology exclusively to Degussa FreshTech beverages, but as Degussa ceased to exist as a drinks company, it’s unclear what the actual position is of the proprietary rights of this technology.
The working principle of the FreshCan system is pressure difference. Opening the can results in an immediate pressure drop inside the can and as, due to its special design and construction, the wedge cannot quickly adjust to this sudden pressure drop, the lid of the wedge pops off immediately. The water sensitive ingredient is automatically released into the beverage, dissolves and is ready for consumption.
But there is more. Market studies claim that the contemporary consumer requires individuality and customised packaging. But the industry doesn’t give him/her a choice. The consumers have to consume what the industry sees fit to bring to market. They have to indulge the flavour they get offered.
Too sweet, too sour, too strong, too weak? Pity for the consumer!
When starts the industry to give the consumer the option to make his own, personal choice of taste. Does this require a new, revolutionary technology? Not really. Already in 2006 Ipifini Inc. presented its Choice-Enabled Packaging technology at PIRA’s “Smart and Intelligent Packaging 2006” international conference in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ipifini Inc is a Massachusetts-based technology development company founded in 2003. Its Programmable Liquid Container technology employs buttons on the container’s surface that release additives (flavours, colorants, fragrances…etc) into the liquid. The additive buttons allow for the consumer to choose variations of the liquid in the container at the point of consumption.
The working of the push buttons is based on the back pressure from carbonated, or otherwise pressured containers, that makes the buttons difficult to depress, prior to opening.
The company claims that Choice-Enabled Packaging is applicable to any liquid product with multiple varieties.
As probably nobody in the world has seen an application of Ipifini’s Programmable Liquid Container technology, it’s obvious that the development isn’t catching on in the market. Probably either the (licensing) conditions of the company are seen as too heavy to absorb or the idea prevails that it isn’t developed through and through and is not yet commercially ready.
Nevertheless it’s a promising design and needs extra attention of inventors.
The only similar development I’m aware of is the blister container, designed some years ago by Hyewon Kim and Jieun You of the Kookmin University, in collaboration with Younsung Lee of the Kunkuk University and Gyujung Lee of the Sungshin Women’s University in South Korea.
Their idea came from the fact that Ramen noodle dishes often include separately packed spices and seasonings. These small packages can be difficult and inconvenient to tear open. This new blister Ramen container solves the problem. The consumer simply presses down on the blister and the seasoning is dispensed into the container on top of the noodles.
Imagine this design for the popular plastic yoghurt pots/cups with alu-cover. The option to be able to add fresh probiotics, vitamins and/or a flavour at the moment of consumption certainly will attract the consumer.
So, we are at the end of my overview of the traditional dispensing caps for bottles, with some comments thrown in to stimulate a wider, more open view of the reader in regard to “spicing” beverages, whatever the beverage or the packaging format will be.
It seems to me, that we still haven’t learned to look into the past to design for the future?
It’s time for some designers, and particularly the marketing boys and girls of dairy and beverage companies to wake up and serve the consumer with the items he/she wants to see in the market.
And from here we step towards the energy pods. A new phenomenon in the world of beverages.