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Shrinking away from shrink wrap: How Carlsberg developed its six-pack glue technology

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer cans Plastic packaging Carlsberg Carlsberg group

Carlsberg introduced its ‘Snap Pack’ this year: which replaces plastic wrapping on six packs by instead gluing the cans together. But while the idea might sound relatively simple, the technology had to address the challenge of being sufficiently strong and sturdy during transportation, and yet easy for consumers to ‘snap’ apart.

With an increasing backlash against plastic, brands are looking for alternatives to shrink wrap, six pack rings, and other secondary packaging. The ‘Snap Pack’ will allow Carlsberg to reduce the amount of plastic used in multi-packs by up to 76%. This is the equivalent of reducing plastic waste globally by more than 1,200 tonnes a year (or 60 million plastic bags). It is also part of Carlsberg’s ‘Together Towards Zero’ targets.

Separating cans in a single movement

The Carlsberg ‘Snap Pack’ is so called because of the noise the packs make when they are snapped apart.

The technology was developed by KHS subsidiary NMP Systems, based on their Nature MultiPack. The technology had to be adapted for Carlsberg’s cans: taking into account the packaging material (cans), their surface and lacquer, and the size and weight of the cans.

Perhaps the most important consideration was striking a balance between an adhesive strong enough to hold cans together during the rigours of transportation – both throughout the distribution chain and once purchased by consumers – alongside the ease of use for consumers, with cans needing to be easily separated with a single movement.

Another consideration is using an adhesive that does not damage the lacquer on the can when the cans are snapped apart, keeping the cans in good condition right through to when the drink is finished.

“We developed this product over three years with Carlsberg, they did a lot of consumer tests, transport tests, tests with different can sizes,”​ explained Kristina Yabar-Jilka of NMP Systems, demonstrating the technology at Brau Beviale in Germany this month. “What we want to do is give the consumer a nice pack without plastic, and that’s very important for the environment.

“The amount of adhesive is the biggest challenge, because every surface is different and the amount changes. A young person can open the pack; but also an old person can open the pack.”

Roll, not pull

One of the answers to the stability vs ease-of-use challenge is the use of a central handle on the pack, which keeps two lines of three glued cans closely together.

The cans do not pull apart easily when in a six-pack format; but once the central handle is removed, the six-pack separates into two lines of three cans, which can then be rolled off each other rather than pulled apart.

Carlsberg has launched the snap pack for four and six pack formats in the UK and Norway, with Denmark, Carlsberg’s home country, to follow early next year.

Other uses?

“We’re also thinking to use this technology for other things – cosmetics for example – the containers have to be cylindrical, because we need to apply the adhesive on certain points,” ​said Yabar-Jilka.

The technology can be used with some other materials, such as PET – although the amount and type of adhesive has to be considered for each packaging format. Evian, for example, has also experimented with the glue technology, launching it for certain multi-packs in France in 2016.

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