Interview with Ton Hoppenbrouwers, Hi-Cone

Shaun Weston9 Aug 2011

Hi-Cone recently worked with Austrian bottled water company Vöslauer to create new multipacks using technology that enables the precise alignment of the bottle labels. Ton Hoppenbrouwers, Hi-Cone's European director of sales, talks to us about the project.

What was the specific brief?

Ton Hoppenbrouwers: Vöslauer have a general strategy to be leaders in innovation and sustainability, and this fits perfectly with the Hi-Cone philosophy. Hi-Cone's approach is 'Min=Max'; less material creates greater efficiency, convenience and value, and this was just what they were looking for.

Their aim was to reduce overall packaging by 20% and we were able to help them towards that target by cutting the secondary packaging – the multi-packaging – by up to 55%. Hi-Cone products are lighter than alternative packaging systems, use less energy, are photodegradable and 100% recyclable.

Vöslauer is a premium brand aiming to be innovative and different from other products on the supermarket shelf. Branding is very important, and our technology helps them with that.

Tell us about the technology, and how it was used to create these distinctive packs.

Hoppenbrouwers: The multipacks are created using our orientation machine, which precisely forward-faces all PET bottles for consistent presentation and maximum visual impact. It creates a billboard effect to enable Vöslauer to use great graphics and get its message across.

We were delighted that, in this case, the client worked very closely with us. The Vöslauer water bottle label, which shows a combination of leaves and fruit, was specifically designed for use with the orientation machine. So, within each six-pack, our machine places some bottles with the fruit showing and others with leaves. It has great impact on the shelf, the message is conveyed effectively and it is a very good-looking pack.

Hi-Cone also provides side lift packaging, which Vöslauer wanted for its functionality and convenience to the customer, including the easy opening zipper that keeps pack integrity while the consumer releases the individual bottles.

For the first year, they have also signed up for our merchandising panel, which they like because of the consistency of printing and better control of graphics, which is vital for their branding. It packs a punch and looks good on the shelf.

What have been the trends in multi-packaging during the past couple of years?

Hoppenbrouwers: Sustainability is a key trend. Brands are increasingly committed to the environment and reducing their carbon footprint. Hi-Cone exhibited at the recent Consumer Goods Forum in Barcelona, which was attended by leading executives from many major brands, and there is no doubt of the real commitment to sustainability among them. They are determined to reduce their use of materials.

However, in this economic climate, there is also a drive for greater efficiency across the whole supply chain, and minimal, efficient use of packaging is an obvious way to help achieve this. This is Hi-Cone's unique selling point because, as well as lightweight packaging, our systems reduce energy costs and reduce the risk of stock shortages in supermarkets.

Finally, in the bottled water sector, companies potentially face problems in differentiation because of the product itself. So differentiation through packaging becomes even more important. This can be achieved through innovation in the proprietary packaging, which Hi-Cone does not obscure, as well as the unique consumer and brand features that Hi-Cone offers in the secondary packaging.

What is the focus of Hi-Cone's work in Europe?

Hoppenbrouwers: We are targeting the bottled water and soft drinks markets in Europe in particular, and we are preparing for changes within the industry as brands look for new price points. We predict that multipacks in small PET bottles will grow, as we have seen in the US.

For example, we have worked with Coca-Cola and Pepsi in North America and Spain to create multipacks of 33cl and 50cl bottles and other sizes in 4, 6, 8 and 12 packs. Our systems are flexible and we are ready for any changes within the water or soft drinks sectors.

We are an innovative brand and are constantly looking for ways to expand our product range to suit the market. Although we are very proud to be a leader, we are of course always seeking new innovations that add value to brands, consumers and retailers.

Interview by Bill Bruce. Bill is group editorial director of FoodBev Media. You can contact him here.