Bottler plans major expansion for bioplastics bottles

Captive extrusion blowmolding capacity at Italian lemon juice bottler Polenghi Group is to be expanded as the company, which now runs six EBM lines, plans to be processing about 10 million of its lemon-shaped bottles per year by 2015.

Marco Polenghi, sales director, whose father founded the company in 1976 with a lemon juice bottling service run out of his garage, says yearly turnover at the firm has reached about €40 million. The company's captive processing capacity is sufficient for all of its current requirements but he expects demand to grow even further as the company begins a pan-European rollout of its lemon juice squeezed from 100% sustainably grown fruit.

"We want to help a customer lead a sustainable life without changing his habits," Polenghi explained. That mission also led the company this year to begin blowmolding bottles made from polylactic acid (PLA), with it sourcing the material from Natureworks LLC. The brand owner sources the Ingeo-brand PLA from Natureworks but developed its own compound, said Polenghi. "We replaced polyethylene but it was not an easy task," he added, saying processing issues as well as the need to develop a PLA-based compound able to withstand the sun's rays, lemons' acidity and other challenges made the transition a difficult one. These lemon juice bottles are the first extrusion blowmolded PLA products seeing commercial use in Europe, according to Natureworks.

The Polenghi Group takes its sustainable manufacturing even further than just bio-grown lemons and plant starch-based packaging, noted Polenghi. Even before it switched to PLA bottles the company began using PLA stretch sleeves over its PE bottles. Next year the closures for the bottles also will be molded of PLA, making for a 100% biodegradable, compostable package. Its factory and energy for its processing is derived from solar energy.

The bio-grown lemon juice packed in PLA bottles, sleeved with PLA labels, went on sale in France in Sept. 2010 and sales start in its domestic market in 2011. The eco-juice is priced 30% higher than the company's standard juice, said Polenghi, but added sales so far and consumer polls have confirmed this is a price the market will bear. The shelf life of the bio-juice is nine months, three less than the standard-packed juice, but Polenghi said retailers accepted the reduction. "We trust this bio-bottle," he concluded. 

 

 

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