In Japan, Showa Aluminium Can Corporation (SAC), a subsidiary of Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), is to make an innovative move to start production of aluminium bottles for beverages by remodelling one of the existing aluminium can production lines at its Hikone Plant.
The remodelling work will start this month for completion in March 2004. The new line's production capacity will be 180 million aluminium bottles a year, all 310-ml bottles with mouth diameter of 38 mm. The production capacity can be further expanded to 350 million bottles/year. The company says that initial investment will amount to approximately ¥1.5 billion (€1.1m). SAC says it is planning to start selling its aluminium bottles in April 2004 for use in soft drinks on the domestic market and expects to sell 100 million bottles a year in 2005.
On a global basis demand for aluminium cans for alcoholic beverages, centering on beer and low malt beer, remains steady. However, demand for aluminium cans for soft drinks has been on the decline due to competition with small-sized PET bottles.
Aluminium bottles, first commercialised in Japan in 2000, are becoming increasingly popular because they can be sealed again and easily recycled, and provide good heat conductivity and barrier property. Demand for aluminium bottles, which amounted to 1.1 billion units in 2002, is expected to further increase to 2.2 billion units in 2003, as forecast by the Aluminium Can Recycling Association of Japan.
SAC says it has decided to start producing aluminium bottles based on the results of its technical studies and market research. The company claims that is confident of its cost competitiveness in aluminium bottle production because it can fully utilize its existing expertise in, and existing facilities for, aluminium can production. SAC will introduce Takeuchi Press Industries technology for the new aluminium bottle production line.
Under the consolidated business plan for the 2003-2005 period named the "Sprout Project," SDK say it is strengthening its aluminium can operation as one of the company's base businesses.
SAC says it will further conduct research on the aluminium bottle market and study the possibility of building another line to meet growing demand.