A design that can steal a march on the competition or be memorable for the consumer is what every packaging end user is after. Clever closures that work may make a real difference to repeat sales writes Pauline Covell

Like the adhesive on a label, the closure is so often taken for granted. For the most part it is only when it fails that it gets noticed. However, with consumer convenience paramount in marketing minds and the lucrative ‘grey market’ in the ascendancy the cleverer the closure the better.

We’ve all been there. If a closure snaps or if you have to take a knife to a tamper evident band you are unlikely to visit the brand again too quickly. And how about those ‘leakers’ in the shopping or the cosmetics container that manages to disgorge itself in a handbag?

Beyond Paradise – the extensively promoted fragrance at Christmas – is packed in the most exquisite container and features an integral pump and closure that can’t fall off in that bag.

Rexam Cosmetic Closures in France and Rexam Dispensing Systems in the US worked together with Estee Lauder to develop a closure with an on/off spray system that would complement the brand engraving around the bottle collar. An essential requirement was that the spray nozzle had to be spherical and transparent. The teams at Rexam assembled specifically designed components to ensure that the dispensing system and spray nozzle functioned effectively and incorporated the quality and beauty of the brand.

Dispensing Systems produce an extended PP insert, extended post and an inner actuator [to ensure material compatibility with the fragrance] and an SLPP pump [crimpless system].

From the cosmetic closures factory in Simandre comes a Surlyn top [incorporating an assembly of components for the spraying system], a clipped-in Surlyn base and a ring made from a multicolour holographic film that is assembled in the base after moulding. This causes light effects to be cast on the base and top. Finally, the French plant also supplies a PP collar, UV metallised in silver.

The components require precise assembly to ensure that they are correctly oriented and the spray cap functions properly says Rexam. To facilitate this it developed automatic assembly equipment and ships the components as a single unit.

According to Jeremy Brook, sales and marketing director of Bericap: “The closure may be the unsung hero of the packaging industry but its contribution to pack and product development remains high.

“The fact that drinkers of the world’s best selling carbonated soft drinks and mineral waters now require less effort to unscrew the bottle caps and the reason that they can be effectively resealed, even if the neck is slightly damaged, is due in part to two years of intensive development work that preceded the launch of Bericap’s DoubleSeal one-piece CSD closure,” he reveals. Within three years of its launch in 1999 around 5bn of these closures were being produced for over 160 customers globally.

PET attributes

No matter how advanced the container becomes, without the right closure a project could be doomed to oblivion.

PET bottles can now handle challenging filling processes such as aseptic, hotfill and sterilisation. “However, these achievements cannot be effective without the development of a closure with similar attributes,” says Brook.

“Closures do not normally perform well during aseptic filling. Our work has concentrated on meeting the special needs of the process. The closures have to be produced under microbiological conditions. In advance of capping they are rinsed in a chemical bath or spray so the design of the closure has to allow for the draining of the fluid. Ideal closures are single piece and linerless.”

Another area of innovation is oxygen scavenging, where the scavenger is placed in the space on the inside of the bore seal. This is proving of real interest in the German beer market reports Brook. “Bericap’s groundbreaking BO2S oxygen scavenger closure offers active absorption of oxygen in the headspace of a bottle [up to 3mg of oxygen] to significantly reduce oxidisation of a product.”

Bericap has also been developing lining compounds that give plastics closures the flexibility to deal with the wide tolerances of glass bottle necks, offering the potential to replace metal varieties for certain applications. “This is a trend likely to continue,” adds Brook. “Plastics can also add features that metal can’t such as tear off membranes and pull up spouts.”

A recent success story involving Rieke Packaging Systems’ Englass dispensers for olive oil customer Minerva of Athens, Greece, illustrates just how a closure dispenser – in this case a spout – can lead to sales growth and repeat sales.

Sales and marketing manager Mark Martin explains: “One of the key markets in the olive oil industry – a more staple food in Greece than bread and milk are to us – is the 5-litre tin. Part of Cussons in the UK, the Minerva brand goes head to head with Unilever’s Greek olive oil company for market share.” A first in the European olive oil market the pack soon found favour.

Launched as a special promotion and backed by TV and press advertising, the equivalent of 40 days supply of the packs were sold in just 25. The company’s market share of the 5-litre tin sector leapt from 13 to 23%.

The spout will not fit competitive products so as Giannis Bouras, Minerva Olive Oil brand manager points out: “Because the dispenser can be re-used, this helps to create brand loyalty.”

Rieke adapted its Englass FND30 dispenser and designed a closure collar to enable it to be attached to the flexible pouring spout in the Minerva tin as the spout’s 28mm opening is 10mm narrower than that usually required for the dispenser. “The key problem was that the opening at the top of the flex spout on their standard closure only had a thread of some 18mm while the standard FND requires 38mm minimum,” reveals Mark Martin.

“We found that, by removing the nut section from the FND [the piece which normally holds it in place on the closure being used], we could fit an FND pump inside the 28mm diameter flex spout. We also found that there was enough room inside the pull up section of the flex spout to be able to punch a hole in this.

“The Greek manufacturer of the flex spout produced an extra 100 000 parts colour-matched to the FND. We engineered a special punch/cutting tool and finally set up a specially engineered pneumatic applicator to push the closure onto the FND to ensure that it was securely attached.

“Used in reasonable conditions we believe that the FND pump is good for at least 10 000 operations which, at 30ml/time on a 5-litre container, means it should be capable of being used for 170 operations/tin and on nearly 60 5-litre tins.”

Triple seal closure

Amcor White Cap has launched the Plasti-Twist triple seal mono-material, linerless PE closure for use with PET, PP and HDPE bottles. Suitable for cold fill and aseptic fill applications in the still beverage and liquid foods sector, for example dairy products, the compression moulded 38mm cap is available in both two and three threaded format. Both have drop down tamper evident bands that stay on the container.

With this launch the company claims to have become the first company to offer both two- and three-threaded plastics closures with triple seal function in 38mm.

The one-piece cap provides a range extension to the company’s existing vacuum holding 38mm Plasti-Twist lined PP closure, which is already available for hot fill applications. A triple seal means there are three contact sealing areas for the closure and the container finish.

A top, inner and outer seal area guarantees a hermetic, airtight seal. The closure also has a multiple safety opening feature. After top seal and outer seal release it is necessary for the tamper evident band to break before the closure can be opened. Only when the band is broken is the third inner seal released to ambient and the bottle opened. For further ease of opening the cap has low opening torque.

Magic dispenser

The success of RPC’s Air New Magic F dispenser, used by Procter and Gamble on its Olay Total Effects range, has led the company to use the Air New pumping technology for the launch of its specialised anti-aging product, Regenerist.

“The basis of Air New technology is the valve system of the dispenser which ensures quick priming and consistent output”, says RPC. “When combined with the attractive appearance and consumer convenience of the dispenser itself, the pack as a whole provides a strong brand image both aesthetically and functionally.”

For the product, P&G, RPC Bramlage-Wiko and Wiko-USA collaborated to engineer a dispensing system that would capture the performance of the Air New pumping system in conjunction with the centre dispensing convenience of the Magic C dispenser.