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Bulmers extends PET operations


Having started to blow PET bottles on a pre-owned Krupp Corpoplast B80, the world's leading cider maker Bulmers of Hereford, UK has increased its output with a new system from SIG Corpoplast.

Early in 2001, Bulmers - which exports around the world - decided to grow its PET operations, having previously used Corpoplast B80 system bought from Schmalbach-Lubeca for about five years.


Satisfied with the overall performance of the equipment and the service Bulmers decided to install a new BLOMAX 12 Series III from the same supplier. The manufacturing team at Bulmers compared three different suppliers across a range of different criteria including performance guarantees, price and service. After some consideration, it was decided to go with the Corpoplast system.


Colin Petts, packaging development manager for Bulmers, said: "One of the biggest problems with commissioning any new line is the ramp-up time. In the case of the Blomax, the whole ramp-up operation was the easiest I have ever undertaken.


"We use a traffic light system here to start up a new line. At the red stage we simply blow preforms to the floor. The amber stage sees us running empty bottles through the whole line. The green stage includes filling, labelling and capping. In the case of the Blomax, this whole operation took us under three weeks. The target efficiency for the Blomax of 95 per cent over the whole range of sizes was achieved whithin three months."


Working 24 hours a day, six 6 days a week, Bulmers says it has seen 20 million bottles run through its new PET line without a major hitch since start-up.


"We processed 80,000 tonnes of locally grown cider apples last autumn," said public relations manager George Thomas. "The characteristics of the various apple varieties, - high sugar content, high tannin, and low acidity - all contribute to the special flavour of traditional English cider."


Besides its strong labels like Strongbow, Woodpecker or Scrumpy Jack, Bulmers also produces special labels for supermarkets. Bulmers holds a 65 per cent share of the cider market in the UK, with Strongbow, its flagship brand, growing at 11 per cent. Bulmers accounts for 80 per cent of cider exports from the UK.


The company uses PET for its more utilitarian bottles - mostly 3-litre and 2-litre packs, but with the option of also using the SIG Blomax 12 for 1.5-litre and 2.5-litre bottles. Preforms are currently being bought in from Amcor and Esteform, with caps coming from Alcoa. These preforms range in size from 31g to 56g.


Currently the Blomax 12 is only being used only to 60 per cent capacity in order to conform with existing machinery in the rinsing and filling area.


Bulmers said it has undertaken some basic development studies in terms of more adventurous moulds for PET bottles, but currently has no plans to use mould design as a marketing tool.


Unlike many producers of Long Alcoholic Drinks (LAD)-products in Europe, North America and Japan, Bulmers sees plastics as a medium for large bottle sales only, with premium products still presented in glass and single serve standard products offered mostly in cans.


Bulmers currently employs 700 people with an annual sales turnover of £500 million (€72.3m). Although Bulmers is a successful PLC, the Bulmer family remains in control with some 50 per cent of the shares.


As a subsidiary of SIG Beverages, SIG Corpoplast , based in Hamburg, Germany is involved with the design, manufacture, sales and servicing of machinery and systems for PET processing. The range of products comprises high-performance injection moulding systems PREMAX compact for outputs of up to 43,200 PET preform per hour and stretch blow molding machinery with outputs of more than 40,000 PET bottles per hour.