Self-chilling can production could begin this year after three-year delay

The Chill-Can site in Youngstown, Ohio. Image from WKBN.

Plans to begin production of self-chilling beverage cans in the US are reportedly back on track more than three years after construction of a plant began – and soon after stopped.

Building activity recently resumed at the site in Youngstown, Ohio, according to a local TV news report. The work appears to be at a third building next to two that were put up soon after Chill-Can owner, The Joseph Company, took the site in 2016 with the promise of 250 jobs and subsequent financial support from the local authorities.

Chief executive Mitchell Joseph was quoted as telling WKBN TV news in Ohio that the site would be producing the twist-and-chill cans by the end of the year. Work had been delayed for four months by the coronavirus outbreak and that production staff were soon to be hired, Joseph was quoted as saying.

The Joseph Company has described its innovation as the world’s first self-chilling can. But the lack of activity since the site in Ohio was first announced has worried Youngstown officials whose town has been blighted by unemployment since the demise of the local steel industry.

Drinks bottler Mitchell Joseph has been working on the idea of a self-chilling drinks can since the mid-1990s with an early version winning The Canmaker magazine’s Can of the Year award in 1997 before being abandoned because id criticism that the cooling medium used a global-warming gas.

Developed by a UK-based subsidiary of The Joseph Company, a more recent version of the Chill-Can cools its contents using recycled liquid carbon dioxide in a pressurised heat-exchange unit. The container is inverted and the plastic base is twisted to release the gas, which in vapourising draws heat from the contents. The original featured a button to activate the chilling mechanism, but was changed because it presented a problem to women with long fingernails, it was said.

A range of cold-brew coffees were test marketed under the Fizzics brand at 7-Eleven shops around Los Angeles in 2018. The 16oz cans were made by Ball for adaptation on a Chill-Can pilot line and offered at retail for between US$2.99 and $5.99.

The Joseph Company’s website said it would also produce self-chilling kegs and other containers at the $20 million plant. It also claims that the factory, when up and running, would utilise artificial intelligence-powered robotic systems.

The WKBN report said a further announcement would be made soon on another packaging technology.

Youngstown is also home to the former canmaking operations of Exal Corporation, now part Trivium Packaging.