Fusion targets gaps in beverage market

By Pauil Gander

- Last updated on GMT

ROK Natural Energy Drink is using Fusion to access premium sales channels
ROK Natural Energy Drink is using Fusion to access premium sales channels

Related tags: Coffee, United kingdom, Czech republic

Continental European applications of Rexam’s hybrid Fusion aluminium can-bottle in beers, wines and other key categories have, so far, not been matched by UK brand owners. But the pack is already in use in niche areas including energy and beauty drinks.

According to Rexam Beverage Can Europe, Heineken is running trials in French retailer Monoprix – trials which could be extended to include Carrefour. In the UK, the target is the ‘on-the-go’ category.

Marketing manager for new product development Kym Hamer told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “As with so many applications of Fusion, it’s all about new routes to market – and often new products, too. In specific categories such as on-the-go, price comparison is often less important.”

Heineken

Heineken is one of the first brands to run the can-bottle on its own glass lines, at its Mons, Belgium, plant, with relatively minor adjustments.

The brand-owner is also using the pack for its Desperados beer/tequila mix sold in clubs and bars.

Another brewer tapping into the opportunities offered by the pack is Luxembourg-based La Brasserie. It launched its Bofferding brand in Fusion in May this year.

However Hamer noted: “Cost-to-market is around two-and-a-half times the cost of a standard can.”

But this is not deterring brands such as Pepsi, which is carrying out Italian trials of its Pepsi Twist variant in the pack.

In the UK, ROK Natural Energy Drink is an example of a specialised brand using Fusion to access premium sales channels. “Since March last year, it has been sold in top-end restaurants and bars, as well as hair salons,”​ Hamer said.

“For us, health and functional drinks is a small but fast-growing category. I don’t think we saw how good a fit we’d have there when we started out.”

There has been interest expressed by the beer sector, too. “But we thought there might be quicker uptake in this market,” ​she added.

Spirit mixes, cocktails and wines are other categories where Fusion is already being used in other European markets. Cans in general represent an “untapped opportunity in the wine sector,” ​according to Rexam.

Challenges

Full production of Fusion began in April 2010. “We spent much of last year ironing out commercial and production challenges,” ​said Hamer. “And at the same time, our customers are learning. There are market but also plant tests to be carried out.”

There is still plenty of excess capacity on the line at Rexam’s Ejpovice plant in the Czech Republic, where Fusion is made, she added.

The base, produced on a conventional high-speed can-making line, is taken offline and put through a complex 35-stage necking and ironing process. Bottles are currently produced in 250cl and 330cl sizes, with three different closure options.

They use more aluminium than a similarly-sized can, and light-weighting is likely to be a priority. Larger sizes and customised shapes are other, more distant, options.

Related topics: Drinks, Packaging materials

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