On 25th November 2015, the European Commission is due to rule on a proposed merger between beverage can heavyweights Ball Packaging (#1 in the world, #2 in Europe) and Rexam (#2 in the world and #1 in Europe). If the merger goes ahead, the new company will roughly double the patent holdings compared to the two separate businesses.
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Standing out in the beverage packaging marketplace (or any marketplace) can be difficult. While most companies rely on striking, attention-grabbing branding and customer loyalty to sell both existing and new products, both Ball and Rexam have focussed heavily on innovation within this mature market, which has propelled their growth to where they are now.
Driving beverage can innovation in recent years is resealable cans. First launched in Britain in 2010, resealable cans were already popular in America for keeping carbonated drinks fizzy.
UK can maker Rexam, in conjunction with Dayton Systems Group (DSG), developed the Cap Can® using patented technology. According to the company’s website, Cap Can® ‘offers a premium and highly differentiated alternative to the resealable pack formats’. Made from aluminium, it also offers environment benefits compared to plastic.
In 2008, the US can maker launched the award-winning Ball Resealable End (BRE), patented a decade earlier in 1998, as another aluminium-based solution for easily resealing carbonated or pasteurised beverages. A rotating movement opens and closes the can while a tamper-proof seal enables consumers to know if it’s already been opened.
Fellow packaging conglomerate Crown Packaging has also sought to join this growing trend, with a patent to their resealable can granted in Europe in 2013. The original inventor of the crown cork (or crown cap), this company continues to promote and demonstrate its innovation.
Ball strikes again
Another innovation which has recently hit the market is cans with integrated straws, with Ball once again leading the field. As it’s opened, a support mechanism pops the Magic Straw out of the can, providing a convenient and hygienic way to drink ‘on-the-go’. Whilst I cannot immediately tell how you reach the bottom of the can, I am sure that the team at Ball are already working to improve and revise the design.
What innovation can we expect to see in the future?
Can packaging innovation is likely to continue to rise as companies seek for new and even more innovative ways to stand out. Whether the merger provides an innovation powerhouse or, perhaps more likely, provides space for smaller, nimbler companies to innovate remains to be seen. One thing that is certain is that the humble can will continue to be the beverage container of choice.