By: Gerald Dlubala
“Any craft beverage producer looking to develop their business to the point of allowing consumers to enjoy their product at home needs to ensure that their packaging choices can protect the product right up to the point of consumption,” said Steve Davis, Product Line Director, Metal Packaging for Industrial Physics. Industrial Physics is a global test and inspection partner providing first-class solutions to industries, including the beverage industry, to protect the integrity of brands and manufacturers across the globe.
“The aluminum can is perfect for this because it’s light, chills the product quickly, protects it from the UV light, is robust, endlessly recyclable and offers great opportunities for the beverage owner to market and brand their product in their way,” said Davis. “Checking the packaging components before assembly and assuring the finished container is assembled correctly is where we come in. Our range of beverage can and end gauging solutions allow the user to check that the components supplied by the packaging manufacturers meet their required specifications. For example, our PAT 2100mk2 is a gauge that checks the opening ability of the beverage end. It mimics the customer pulling on the tab and checks that the force required to open the can is within specification and that the tab will stay properly attached while opening. After all, if you can’t open the packaging, you can’t taste the product inside. Once the can is filled and sealed, our range of video seam monitors and X-ray seam inspection equipment allows the producer to check that the seaming operation is performing correctly and preserving the contents of the packaging as best as possible.”
Industrial Physics includes a family of CMC-KUHNKE, Eagle Vision and Quality By Vision brands within their portfolio. Their expertise in designing and manufacturing quality control and assurance systems for the metal packaging industry has been relied upon for over 30 years and is unrivaled. Quality By Vision is proud to have invented the practice of using cameras to inspect the seams on beverage cans.
“Checking the seam on a filled can is a fundamental requirement for any beverage producer to protect the packaging integrity,” said Davis. “It ensures that the cans and ends pass through the production process without issues. Our solutions offer an inspection methodology that minimizes operator influence and provides trusted results. In addition, the reliability of the gauges provides concise and consistent data, enabling the beverage producer to optimize their process, reduce waste and ensure that their product reaches the customer in the best condition possible.”
Industrial Physics designs its products to be as maintenance-free as possible. For video seam monitors and similar dimensional gauges, all required is an annual calibration to original specifications. Seam saws need new blades periodically, depending on use.
“Basic must-haves are a simple set of gauges to check incoming packaging,” said Davis. “Things like a can height gauge and a flange width gauge are a good start, and for seam checks, you would need a video seam inspection gauge with our SEAMview inspection software. The SEAMview inspection software automatically takes seam measurements and stores the results, so if the producer receives a complaint or comes across an issue, they can go back and investigate the test results. This system is scalable and used by small craft producers up through the world’s largest beverage manufacturers. An ultimate solution for larger-scale producers is our XTS online, a completely autonomous gauge that uses X-rays to inspect the beverage can seam without any invasion of the packaging. It makes all the necessary measurements and returns the container to the line for sale.”
Davis told Beverage Master Magazine that being involved with a beverage producer as a true partner is very important. “We’re always here to support our customers with the highest level of service. The products themselves are simple to use, portable (except for the XTS products), powered by any standard electrical source, and only require a day’s training to attain proficiency. Refresher courses are available either remotely or on-site with our support team.”
Volumetric & Level Fillers For Glass Bottle Packaging: XpressFill Systems LLC
Johannes Kollhoff is the Director of Operations at XpressFill Systems LLC, designers and builders of quality, affordable bottling equipment for beverage producers worldwide. He recommends a Volumetric Bottle Filler for distillers that need to comply with TTB regulations.
“Our volumetric filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a precise timer. The filler is calibrated to your specifications and is capable of repeatable, accurate fills regardless of inconsistencies in the bottle glass. We also provide high-proof volumetric fillers that replace flow path components with more resilient materials to ethanol. The high-proof version is used extensively for our distillery customers and fills levels within TTB requirements. Volumetric fillers are suitable for bottling a variety of different sizes, even down to 50ml bottles,” said Kollhoff. “The four-spout unit can fill approximately 450 [750ml] bottles an hour and be used for bottle conditioned kombucha, olive oil and many other liquids. Level fillers can be used for all products, including wine and distilled spirits as well. Level fillers are ideal if the fill height in the bottleneck is a concern for shelf presentation amid glass variations.”
Kollhoff said that XpressFill’s level fillers control the amount of fill with a level sensor. When the liquid reaches the sensor, the filler automatically stops filling. The desired liquid level is set by adjusting the shelf’s height in 1/16-inch increments.
“All XpressFill machines are semi-automatic, tabletop, stand-alone fillers that are portable and operate with regular 110v outlets,” said Kollhoff. “They should be placed and used in well-ventilated and non-hazardous areas. A gas purge option is available to reduce the exposure to oxygen for products that are sensitive to oxidation. Our fillers would not be compatible with liquids that contain large amounts of pulp or particulates, so if you have questionable products, we recommend sending samples of questionable products for testing.”
The volumetric and level fillers have self-contained, self-priming pumps that draw liquid from any barrel or carboy. They are manufactured from high-quality, food-grade components, and the only recommended maintenance is routine cleaning after use. There is no reservoir. The liquid flows directly from your bulk container through the filler into the bottles. The machines are easy to learn and operate, but XpressFill recommends familiarizing yourself with the device by initially using water for a test run. XpressFill has excellent customer service, and if needed, you will be in touch with a technician that knows the machine inside and out within a couple of minutes.
XpressFill also has customers who use a hot fill level filler to pack ready-to-drink cocktails, which has become somewhat of a trend. Trends happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as a demand that goes unnoticed and is now coming to the surface. In an extreme case, it may take a pandemic to give life to a trend that most didn’t even know was available or necessary. When the pandemic took away the ability to enjoy your favorite drinks at your local venue, a trend was born out of necessity to keep doors open for craft beverage producers. The packaging and sales of ready-to-drink beverages and cocktails became the way for craft producers to stay viable and in touch with their customers. They didn’t know that the ability to package their product in that way would turn into a valuable and sustainable revenue stream that was not part of their original business plan.
Starting a Bar Program With Oktober Can Seamers
“Canning has turned into a new revenue stream for those places that never considered it before,” said Dennis Grumm, CEO and lead engineer of Oktober Can Seamers. “The main thing that came out of the pandemic is that new drinks packaged in ready-to-drink cans translate into new revenue. It’s like the seltzer craze when it began about five years ago. Then, they were new and different, and now they’ve blown up. That’s what our can seamers can do for whatever beverage you come up with and want to put into a can.”
The pandemic brought the reality and usefulness of to-go drinks to the forefront. It allowed craft beverage producers the ability to get their products out the door when no one was allowed in-house. Now, as things return to normal, canning beverages to go or for the ready-to-drink market is a legitimate income stream.
“When we go to a business for a demo, we usually bring bloody marys and mimosas to demonstrate our can seamers,” said Grumm. “Clients are blown away by the wide range of uses of our can seamers and the new business opportunities that open up as a result of owning one. By now, everyone has seen the classic cocktails canned and displayed as ready-to-drink. Successful classic cocktails breed new and different ideas, so a distillery or pub owner can add their twist or trademark drink and can them for their customers. Variations on margaritas and rum punches have done well, but a beverage producer can literally can whatever concoction or unique product they can imagine. Of course, you, as a producer, have to be aware of things like fermentation that can alter taste after time and adhere to food and safety regulations such as drink-by, best-by, or expiration dates.”
Getting started is as simple as purchasing an Oktober Can Seamer and getting the cans and ends, which they can provide. Oktober units are plug and play out of the box, and their website has all the video tutorials needed to be up and running in literally minutes.
“You’re easily able to go from canning one type or style of beverage to another,” said Grumm, “Especially when using the same size of the can. Switching can size is no big deal and can be done in a few seconds, with a 15 to 20-minute changeover for a 32-ounce unit. The busier bars sometimes use two or more can seamers situated at different ends of their bar to help facilitate traffic behind the bar or to keep different setups more readily available for fast service.”
Why start a bar program with
Oktober Can Seamers?
“Our units are specifically designed for use behind a bar,” said Grumm. “We’ve worked with and had discussions with enough people in the food and service industry that we know the importance of saving space, reducing traffic congestion, and keeping machines running. Equipment can’t break down. It has to save space, and it has to be easy to use, clean and service. That’s us. Our tech support is on top of all things, and our machines don’t break down. There are minimal parts that wear under normal use and are subsequently very easy to acquire and replace. As to the calibration, sure, we sell calibration kits separately, but honestly, they’re just not used. We’ve had units in operation for years over thousands and thousands of cans, and they simply don’t require a lot of specialized calibration. It either seams a can, or it doesn’t.”
“Oktober is one of the only companies that have this type of can seamer available to beverage producers of all sizes,” said Grumm. “It’s incredibly reliable, inexpensive, and looks good behind a bar. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and provides instant effects to the bottom line by producing immediate revenue that the bar or distillery owner didn’t even know was there. It’s just the sentiment that restaurants, bars and pubs can more easily sling ready-to-drink cocktails through the door by providing them in a can. The machine just does incredible work and brings with it an immediate additional revenue source. And we can handle your labeling needs as well. Most customers have a logo or can design in mind and can order their cans directly through our site. However, if they want a simple generic label or need help with images or design concepts, we have a team ready for help and order processing.”
Additionally, Grumm told Beverage Master Magazine that Oktober Can Seamers is kicking around the idea of subscription services to make sure customers are never out of cans.
“We ship fast, and we ship now,” said Grumm. “And we are finalizing plans for a distribution center in Nevada to take care of our West Coast clients even better than we do currently.