Cans of the Year Awards 2016 – Part II

The Silver winning runners-up in the Cans of the Year 2016 awards offered a number of new technologies and innovations. John Nutting reviews them

If the entries to the Cans of the Year awards guarantee anything to us at The Canmaker magazine, it’s that there’s no shortage of surprises.

As it’s been since the first awards were selected more than 20 years ago in 1996, the process of sifting through the dozens of metal containers from around the world is painstaking for the judges. This year the judges came from the canmaking industry and from the design world, and brought expertise in product development, manufacturing and decoration.

It was a heady mix bound to generate a range of views as to what constituted a winner. As ever, again, the criteria they were tasked to apply covered the technicalities of canmaking: its execution, new innovations, decorative quality – after all metal is the best substrate for print – and as a thread running through everything, sustainability.

When it came to the crunch, the difference between the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards was excruciatingly narrow. So while we highlighted the Gold award winners last month as being the peak of what the canmaking industry has on offer, the Silver winners here should be regarded as no less worthy. There was often a whisker of a difference one way or the other.

The surprises arrived right from the start. In the Aerosol Can category the Silver winner was a can made by Technical Chemical Company (TCC), which markets a range of automotive products from its headquarters at Cleburne in Texas. Unusually a self-manufacturer of its packaging, TCC has been using its own three-piece welded cans but some attractive features of a new two-piece D&I steel design swayed it to try completely new manufacturing systems supplied by Mall//Herlan in Switzerland.

In effect the production line is a cut-down version of those used for beverage cans, except that fewer cupper tools and bodymakers enable cost-effective manufacturing at lower outputs. The two-piece can is well decorated, has no side seam and can be produced and decorated without contamination, and at lower cost, says Mall//Herlan.

Ensuring that canned products stand out on crowded supermarket shelves calls for a range of techniques that involve the use of novel shapes and striking decoration. In the Silver award in the Beverage Three-Piece category leading Chinese canmaker ORG Packaging used these techniques to maximum effect so that its customer Qingdao Suhe International Trading could market its Suhe juice ranges successfully.

ORG, which is harnessing every type of technology for its range of food, beverage and general line cans, in this case employed internal expansion processes and necking to produce the 330ml and 650ml three-piece steel cans, which also use easy-open aluminium ends.

In the Beverage Two-Piece category, Toyo Seikan took the Silver award.

The Japanese canmaker has twice before been a Can of the Year winner, and has often featured in the awards with clever designs beautifully crafted. It is one of the leading suppliers of cans for the huge domestic ready-to-drink coffee market with its polyester-laminated two-piece steel cans increasingly being used.

Toyo Seikan has been supplying Kirin Beverage Company with cans for its Fire brand coffee since 2006 and to celebrate its tenth anniversary produced a new design for Kirin Fire Hikitate Bitoh, a low-sugar freshly ground coffee.

To mark the occasion, Toyo Seikan applied a new twist to its Diamond Cut process in which embossed triangular patterns are created on the body. This is carried out after the application of aluminium-deposition label printing that creates the effect of looking like gold bullion.

The impact is stunning and the judges were amazed at the levels of quality that are possible with metal packaging in Japan. Delegates at The Canmaker Summit held in Lisbon last month were also impressed and gave the Kirin can the Delegates’ Choice award.

The Bottles category has long been prominent in the Cans of the Year since Cebal took the honours in 1998 for an aluminium bottle for a vodka brand. The technology has advanced significantly since then and now D&I bottles are widely used in North America for beer and less so for soft drinks.

To move into the wine and spirits sector, Scott Coors, who is the son of aluminium can pioneer Bill Coors, has adapted a novel technology at his company in Colorado, ALeco, to produce aluminium bottles in the same 750ml size commonly used in the sector. The D&I production line developed by Coors with partner Evan Watkins enables smaller batches of bottles to be made cost effectively by using, along with a number of key features such as low water usage and air discharge, UV-cured digital printing developed in collaboration with INX International.

The bottles are not only much lighter than their glass equivalents, reducing shipping costs, but they are made from aluminium with 80 percent recycled content supplied by Novelis. This strong ecological message is being used to market the bottles to customers such as Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and Sierra Sky Winery, both of whom like the idea of selling an ‘eco’ container to outdoor-pursuit enthusiasts.

More two-piece beverage cans are produced than anything else in the canmaking world, almost 350 billion a year, it is estimated. One way of standing out in this crowd is to use a novel lid that adds value.

The craft beer world is a hive of innovation driven by fervent enthusiasts whose consumers are highly discerning. Flavour and variety are key and they are prepared to pay for it. The London Beer Factory wanted a new can format that would enhance the drinking experience and turned to Crown Packaging UK which offered its 360End, an easy-open lid that reveals the full aperture, allowing the aroma of the beer to be appreciated. The 360End was first used on Castle beer cans in a promotion during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa a few years back, but this is a first in craft brewing.

While this was enough to win Crown the Silver award in the Ends, Caps & Closures category, there was much more in the package. Crown’s Bevcan Studio also collaborated with the London Beer Factory to design a range of labels with novel graphics and high-quality print incorporating matt finish inks.

The Fancy Can category attracts a wide range of shapes and applications. Many are highly-expensive secondary containers for spirits bottles, and again one of these won Gold this year for Chivas Brothers. But for sheer tactile appeal, simplicity and fit-for-purpose the hinge-lid tins produced by Hoffmann Neopac in Switzerland were worthy Silver award winners.

The pocket size rectangular tins were designed for Beiersdorf to contain plasters to cover cuts and wounds. The branding for either Hansaplast or Elastoplast is low key because these tins are premium items of beauty with a subtle feel enhanced by ‘soft touch’ coatings and attractive designs. A plastics insert offers product safety and convenience.

The same techniques that are being used in the three-piece beverage can sector have long been used in Food Three-Piece. When considering the candidates the judges awarded Gold to a novel promotional can produced by Nestlé in Brazil because it contained not just packs of powdered milk but crayons for use by children to decorate the exterior.

That was just ahead of another milk powder can, this time made by Ardagh Group in France for Mead Johnson’s Enfinitas brand that is marketed in China. Infant formula is a growing and highly competitive sector in the People’s Republic so in additional to the now familiar features of hygiene quality and user convenience, the can is shaped with a waisted section, adding to the overall shelf impact without affecting shipping costs.

If small is beautiful then that would be enough for the can that won the Food Two-Piece category for ORG Packaging in China. Sesame oil is a key condiment in Chinese cuisine and it’s not a throwaway consumable so the packaging should reflect this with a premium look.

ORG is at the forefront in the development of polyester-coated drawn cans which offer simplicity in fabrication with low environmental impact. With the tiny 65ml sesame oil cans produced for Fujian Kangzhiwei Food Industry, its designers explored the limits of decoration by exploiting their distortion printing techniques, coming up with a delightful label that’s hard to differentiate from those printed on the round. Opening is made easy with a ring-pull end featuring a coloured tab.

Large steel pails with hefty closures have long been hard to handle in the filling operation so anything that helps to automate the process is welcome. Winner of Silver in the General Line category was Ardagh Group’s SpRing Latch system where the previously-offered Ring Latch is enhanced with a patented design in which an integrated spring allows the latch to expand when vertical pressure is applied to the lid.

The SpRing Latch is then pressed over the rim and the spring securely fixes the lid to the container. Good news for a filler in the paints and coatings markets is that no additional investment is necessary on the line. It is available for conical pails in volumes from 6 to 30 litres.

The Prototype category covers a wide range of possibilities. Weight reduction and performance improvements for impact-extruded aluminium aerosol cans are being pursued by Ball Aerocan with its ReAl technology, which uses an alloy containing recycled content that increases its strength and enables weight savings of up to 15 percent. Winning Silver in the category this year is a new 53mm diameter size from Ball that is expected to widen the range with different heights and shapes.

Such is the weight reduction and recycling potential with ReAl that Ball also won the Silver award for Sustainability, following its Gold award in the category for its ‘compressed’ aerosol can.

The best lithography in the Cans of the Year is recognised with a Decoration category.

This year’s Silver prize was awarded to Federal Metal Printing Factory in Malaysia for the beautiful confectionery tin made for YU-Al Food Industries. It was produced with FM screen pre-press workflow and eight-colour UV-cured printing. In every way this was the pinnacle of the fancy can craft.