One of the pioneers of the widget has opened up a whole new field of opportunities for product development and marketing concepts with the launch of the widget - Mark II
In a recent poll, the widget was voted the greatest technological invention of the past 40 years, taking 48% of the vote. But ever since the little plastic device made its mark in the canned beer sector, the search has been on to create the same effect in glass and plastic bottles.
Bernard Frutin, one of the pioneers of widget technology and inventor of the Rocep Pressure Pack delivery system used by Henkel in the DIY products market, has turned his attention to the matter and the Gizmo system is poised to break into the market. A complete supply chain is now in place and Glasgow-based Rocep has set up a separate company, Gizmo Packaging, to handle the sales and marketing.
The Gizmo uses compressed nitrogen in a similar way to the widget, but rather than sitting at the bottom of the bottle, the device is attached to the inside of the closure. It consists of a small stainless steel tank, which is manufactured according to aerosol standards. For a beer bottle, the tank contains 1ml of water saturated with nitrogen and pressurised. A small opening in the neck of the tank is sealed with a spike. When the closure is unscrewed the spike withdraws and the pressurised water is released and runs down the neck into the bottle where it lies on top of the beer. When the beer is poured, the saturated water becomes unstable, releasing the nitrogen and creating the head on the beer.
When news of the development reached the market, even though the device was only at prototype stage, it was not just the brewing sector that showed interest. An enquiry from a spirits company in Australia suggested that there was demand for a system to mix beverage ingredients at the point of consumption, and this led to the development of a range of variations on the Gizmo theme.
As well as the Gizmo device contained in the bottle closure, it is also possible to use a straw extending to the bottom of the bottle to allow up to three different ingredients – including powders, granules and liquids of different viscosities – to be mixed in specific proportions.
Potential applications include adding coloured fruit juices and flavourings into colourless vodka-based mixes; adding coffee and nitrogen to milk to create a frothy, chilled capuccino; adding flavouring to milk to make milkshake; or even creating a multilayered cocktail in a bottle.
The Gizmo is suitable for use with both glass and PET bottles, and can also be applied to other types of containers such as tubes. If, for example, the straw were to contain a gelling agent, it would be possible to create a lotion, emulsion or cream on demand.
This has implications for the cosmetics market because the ingredients are kept separate until the pack is opened, product shelf life could be significantly increased and the amount of preservatives in the formulation reduced accordingly.
Nor do the possibilities of the technology end there. The pharmaceutical sector is another market being considered actively by Rocep. One of the major advantages claimed for the Rocep Acti-Mix Cap, as the pharmaceutical version is named, is that each of the ingredients can be allocated a different, very accurate, predetermined dosage.
At present, the tank has been designed with a capacity of 1.2ml, but this could be increased or reduced, the only limitation on size being the ability to scale down the moulded components of the release valve mechanism.
Similarly, a capillary tube could be used to hold small quantities of powder. Nor does the pressurised liquid have to be water – it could equally well be a different liquid or even a gas. Tests have shown that when the cap is activated, more than 99% of the contents of the straw are expelled into the main container.
Rocep is keen to find partners to adapt the technology and develop commercial applications. This might be through a joint venture or in licensing the technology.
“We think we have a tiger by the tail,” says managing director Bob Swandells. “We can’t even begin to imagine some of the applications that formulators might want to use this technology for.”