In a world of fast-paced lifestyles, we expect water and soft-drinks bottles to be easy to use and reliable. Beverage Packaging Innovation speaks to Mark Aldridge, business development director at Global Closure Systems, about its efforts to optimise consumer experience while maintaining an environmentally sustainable business model.
What factors inform Global Closure Systems' development of new products?
Mark Aldridge: Global Closure Systems (GCS) is one of the world's largest providers of plastic closure solutions for the FMCG markets, and our customers expect us to remain at the forefront of innovation.
With regards to the beverage market, GCS specialises in two particular areas: flip-top sports closures and push-pull sports closures. We've been producing the latter since the 1990s, and their design has evolved with attention to convenience, safety, and the need to reduce materials. Our sports closures meet the modern consumer's on-the-go lifestyle. We're travelling, playing sport and rushing around; so we design packs that are portable and easy to hold, open, use and reseal with one hand.
Packaging of closures is minimised by making neck weights smaller, shorter and lighter. However, the packaging's robustness needs to remain the same, so there's always a challenge for our engineers to make less material do the same job today as more material did in the past.
Can you describe the process of mocking up a design through to producing the final product?
We start with a product brief - internally and externally led - or a list of customer and consumer challenges. If I asked for 20 things that consumers wouldn't want a sports closure to be, these could easily be listed: too sharp to use, difficult to open, ugly and expensive. Taking the reverse of those stipulations provides an extensive design brief. GCS can then produce a stereolithographic model, which is presented to customers, clients or stakeholders as an early indication of a proposed new sports closure design.
Pre-pilot and pilot moulds follow, with completed sports closures then available for consumers to give feedback on, ensuring a thorough product development process.
After quality and operational tests, we submit our closures to authorities such as the British Soft Drinks Association for approval. Production tooling and automated high-tech assembly equipment are fully integrated into the product design process at every stage to ensure a world-class manufacturing processes.
How does GCS gauge reception of its new products?
GCS conducts consumer research with well-established market research agencies, and we often adopt a combined approach with qualitative and quantitative research for more in-depth and objective insights. For example, we recently conducted a qualitative research that has enabled us to increase our understanding of how young users interact with beverage packaging - and, in particular, with sports closure systems.
How does GCS stand out from competitors?
We have a good understanding of the six markets in which we operate, and GCS is in a unique position to transfer new technologies and concepts from one market to another. GCS therefore has a long track record of developing innovative added-value products for a wide range of applications, and invests significant resources to register and protect our innovations as GCS intellectual property.
Today, we make the best-in-class push-pull sports cap in terms of consumer safety, and we exceed market expectations regarding convenience and sustainability with our latest flip-top sports closures.
How does GCS ensure its beverage and mineral-water packaging is environmentally sustainable?
Weight reduction is today a priority in the design briefs of our standard and custom-made closures. GCS has achieved greater closure functionality in a lighter weight - our latest flip-top sports closure is a sub-4g three-piece cap - with clever design and by utilising particular polymers and processes.
We also achieve resilient packaging with fully recyclable polymers and sustainable best-in-class tamper-evident features. This means a pack can be opened with one hand with no separate strip of plastic needing to be thrown away, as GCS's patented tamper-evident band is retained within the flip-top sports closure as permanent evidence of opening.
Our ultimate objective is to offer the best environmental solution to meet consumer demand and brand expectations, without compromising on product safety and performance - these remain key drivers to the design of new sports closures.