BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- It's in the can. Or at least it will be, now that packaging companies are introducing different types of cans to provide consumers with convenience and health benefits.
Health is a key driver of the beverage market, which is reflected in one product that's expected to come on the market this fall.
The FreshCan from Ball Corp. here is intended for energy and other functional drinks. Just inside the top of the can is a small plastic pouch called the "wedge." It's pushed apart when the can is opened, releasing nutrients and vitamins into the drink inside.
Storing the supplements is supposed to ensure they are more effective because some are sensitive to moisture and lose their efficacy the longer they are in liquid. The construction also extends the products' shelf life, said Marty Ruffalo, senior vice president of sales for beverages, cans and PET for Ball Corp.
The first FreshCan product will be Defense, a nutritional supplement developed by Brain Twist in White Plains, N.Y. "Energy drinks are having a very significant impact on our business," said Ruffalo, who described the new products at a recent beverage conference in New York. It's hoped that the fun side of these drinks will help push sales. "Sometimes consumers don't mind paying more if it's a real neat product," he added.
Also expected to be available at the end of this year from Ball Corp. is the Straw Can. An 8-ounce can with an opening just big enough for a straw, it's aimed at preventing spills. They're aimed predominantly at kids age 6 to 12. The idea is that they will make children feel older and will be much easier to carry on-the-go.
These cans also are hoped to appeal to women who don't want to smear their lipstick when they sip from a can, Ruffalo said. Still another prospective market is the elderly, who drink less, especially those in nursing homes and hospitals, where the cans help those with drinking difficulties.
"We have some serious interest from several different companies who are trying to decide which products to put in these cans," Ruffalo said. "It'll probably be a premium product since these cans are more expensive than cartons or pouches, and people will need to feel they're getting value for their price."
Other products that are expected to soon make a splash in the beverage market are self-heating and self-cooling cans, used so far, respectively, by Wolfgang Puck for coffee and Labatt for beer. "They're made for higher-end products, for people on the go, who are not price-sensitive," Ruffalo said.
Ball's widget cans are also expected to jump into the fray in the United States. First launched in the United Kingdom in 1986 in cans of Guinness Draft, the widget is a built-in capsule that makes the beverage froth when the can is opened, thus ensuring a creamy head on the beer. Iced cappuccino is also available in widget cans in Europe, and Ruffalo saw a market for high-end root beer in the U.S.
Innovative packaging alone won't make a beverage succeed, said Darrell Jursa, managing partner of beverage consulting firm Liquid Intelligence in Chicago. "It's only going to take off if they can convince a beverage company to go in with them. You can have a great package, but it's what's inside that counts.
"Innovation is great, and we all know that health and wellness is the big thing in beverages. The big companies like Pepsi and Coke can't get their arms around it, so it's great to have innovation that might spur these companies to get their act together."
Jolt, the 20-year-old energy drink, is trying to do just that, relaunching itself this year in a new package: a resealable 23.5-ounce can from Rexam Beverage Can North America in Chicago.
"From a consumer standpoint, beverage cans have an inherent advantage," said Greg Brooke, vice president of communications, Americas, for Rexam. "They chill faster, recycle at double the rate of other packages, store easily and ship better. The only knock on the can is the resealability."
Rexam's new cans also have a "power gauge" that changes color when the beverage is chilled and shows how much liquid is left.
Jolt in resealable cans hit the market in January. Sales have increased fourfold since then, said C.J. Rapp, founder and president of Wet Planet Beverages in Rochester, N.Y., Jolt's parent company. "It's a positive response to the packaging. It has brought Jolt back into the forefront of peoples' minds," he said.