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[greenyes] New Products in Aluminum Bottle Shaped Cans



WALL STREET JOURNAL

Beer, Wine Makers Use Fancy Cans To Court New Fans

By PAUL GLADER and CHRISTOPHER LAWTON

Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
August 24, 2004; Page B1

Wine in a pink can? Beer in a svelte aluminum bottle? In a bid to reach more
consumers, several drinks companies are kicking their old habits, rolling
out new products in nontraditional vessels.
Today, Pittsburgh Brewing Co. plans to introduce its flagship Iron City Beer
in long-neck, 12-ounce aluminum bottles, hoping to upgrade its image to
better compete against import lagers housed in glass bottles.
"We believe it's going to be a package of the future," says Joseph
Piccirilli, vice chairman of the brewer, which invested $300,000 to convert
bottling equipment to handle the new aluminum container.
Earlier this summer, Francis Ford Coppola's Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery in
California's Napa Valley launched its sparkling Sofia Blanc de Blancs in a
pink metallic four-pack at $20. The sleek 6.4 ounce cans include a
mini-straw to encourage sipping, not guzzling. To protect the integrity of
the sparkling wine, each can is lined with a polymer seal to prevent
interaction between the aluminum and the liquid. Not only are the cans
lighter than glass and more portable, says Erle Martin, president of the
winery, they chill faster, and can be crushed with the stomp of a foot when
empty.



It's putting the wine into places where wine traditionally hasn't had an
easy opportunity," says Mr. Martin, who expects to ship 50,000 cases this
year.
The new packages are designed to make beer and wine more appealing and
convenient to drink. While canned wine may sound a tad declasse, it allows
for easier, safer portability on boats and hiking trails. Mr. Martin says
that hotels and airlines also have shown an interest in the minicontainers.
Aluminum wine cans, meanwhile, may give such packaging entree to sports and
concert venues where glass bottles are prohibited.
In an industry often short on innovation, new packaging can do more than
just boost convenience. It can also help change perceptions about existing
brands. First bottled in 1999, for example, Diageo PLC's Smirnoff Ice was
shunned by many men as a "female drink." A year and a half ago, Diageo began
selling the drink in the United Kingdom in slim aluminum cans, and the brand
has since gained cache among more male drinkers.
"As time goes on, packaging is going to play more and more of an important
role in differentiating brands," says John Hayes, vice president of
corporate strategy for Broomfield, Colo.-based Ball Corp. The company
started decades ago in the glass-packaging business, but now makes metals
and plastic products. Engineers there, as well as at RexamPLC, and Crown
Holdings Inc., are developing new designs in aluminum packaging.

New aluminum cans, like these from Iron City Beer, are challenging
glass-bottled competitors.


Beverage companies are starting to reconsider traditional aluminum vessels
in an effort to expand market share. Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s new bottle has
a pop-off top rather than a pop-tab, and chill faster than glass or plastic,
say executives at CCL Container Inc., which makes the bottles. Unbreakable,
they are easier to ship and more cost-effective to recycle, says CCL.
Heineken NV, branching out from its distinctive green glass bottle, also has
experimented with aluminum bottles and is now selling aluminum cans shaped
like beer kegs nationally. Steve Davis, senior vice president of marketing
for Heineken USA, says Heineken looks at the packaging innovation as a way
to inject excitement into a beer industry that has gotten "stodgy and old."
Anheuser-Busch Cos. confirmed that it is adding an aluminum bottle to its
packaging line-up for its high-end brews, including Michelob, Michelob Light
and Anheuser World Select. The company will begin testing the new containers
this fall in bars, clubs and convenience stores.
Partly fueling the change are can makers, which want to shake the reputation
of being a commodity or low-cost alternative to glass bottles. They want
premium aluminum packaging products to counter premium beer imports, which
are growing at 10% per year and are typically housed in glass, according to
Esther Palevsky, a packaging industry analyst at The Freedonia Group.

"..."
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