The company demonstrated its A-Pex63 container at the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) show in Rosemont, Illinois. In an interview with FoodProductionDaily, Amcor senior marketing manager Bunlim Ly said his firm is one of many that had been trying to develop a plastic alternative to the glass jar with a metal lug closure that has been an industry standard for sauces.
“We worked on it, as did our competitors and our closure partners,” Ly said. “The breakthrough came when our engineers looked at the problem holistically.”
“Instead of focusing on the container and the lug closure independently, our engineers tackled the entire system. That’s why we are patenting the entire system.”
As a result, Ly said, Amcor can provide “a seamless transition” from glass jars to PET containers. No capital investment is required, as the containers can be adapted to existing capping and filling equipment.
The stock containers are hot fillable up to 205°F (96°C), according to Amcor. They are designed for food applications such as pasta sauce and other sauces, as well as apple sauce, jams and jellies.
“We started with the 24oz jar and 63mm closure because that is the industry standard for pasta sauce and other sauces,” Ly added.
However, the technology is transferable to other container sizes. Ly said: “We already have projects under way to produce A-Pex82 jars [with 82mm closures] for salsas and dips, and A-Pex38 bottles [with 38mm closures] for sauces and beverages.”
Many retailers, brand owners, and co-packers know the selling points of PET vs. glass. PET is shatterproof and 100% recyclable. The A-Pex63 weighs 85% less than its glass counterpart (51g vs. 330g), which results in significantly lower transportation costs.
Nevertheless, Amcor sought to make “PET or glass?” a moot question. The A-Pex containers are completely clear, with or without a barrier layer.
“For customers who need additional barrier protection for their products, we make a version of these containers with a [KHS InnoPET] Plasmax coating on the interior surface,” Ly said. “The Plasmax coating is made with a gas form of silicon oxide that provides glass-like barrier properties and clarity but is fully recyclable. It’s even approved by APR [the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers].”
Before introducing the A-Pex containers, Amcor performed extensive lab scale and line trial testing to prove the technology. The company also ran focus groups to gauge consumer acceptance.
“Consumers told us the container’s recyclability is very important to them,” he added. “They also had concerns about the chemical composition of the container; they wanted to be sure it was BPA- and phthalate-free.”
Those concerns gave Amcor an opportunity to educate focus group participants on the merits of PET vs. glass.
“We told them PET is 100% recyclable and has the highest recycling rate of any plastic,” Ly said. “We explained that recycling PET uses less energy and creates lower CO2 emissions than recycling glass.”
Ly said the focus groups also verified the importance of the metal lug closure to their acceptance of the package. “They want to see that tamper-evident indicator button and hear that ‘pop’ when they open the jar so they know the product is safe and its freshness is intact,” he explained.
The A-Pex container was “very well received” by PLMA show attendees, Ly said. “People kept coming up and tapping the container to check that it really was made of plastic, not glass.”
“Retailers were particularly impressed with the container. Some of them called it a game-changer.”
In fact, he said, several national brand owners and larger co-manufacturers also expressed keen interest in the container, “but it’s the retailers who are pulling it through.”
Now, Amcor is busy “sending out a lot of sample bottles and setting up production line trials throughout the country,” he added.