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R&D/Leverage helped convert the iconic Snapple bottle to plastic without losing the ‘snap’

Changing the packaging of an iconic brand is always rife with challenges and risks. But the results of a recent packaging update for Snapple have yielded considerable benefits for the brand, according to R&D/Leverage USA (Lee’s Summit, MO).

Snapple single-serve premium teas and juice drinks are now available in a PET bottle designed in a collaborative effort between the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS; Plano, TX) and R&D/Leverage, a packaging solutions provider and mold manufacturer. R&D/Leverage has a long history of working with DPS, so when the DPS product development team began looking for a way to make its Snapple bottle plastic while retaining everything that consumers know and love about the brand, it teamed with R&D/Leverage to develop the perfect solution.

A key driver behind the conversion to plastic was to provide consumers with a convenient, lighter weight container they could enjoy on the go. But the glass Snapple bottle is iconic, so an absolute requirement for this project was to maintain both the look and feel of the original glass bottle, according to Patrick George, Senior Director of Packaging Engineering for DPS.

“We decided that success would mean that when the bottles were put side-by-side, we couldn’t tell the difference between glass and plastic,” said George. That also meant including the famous metal cap that produces the iconic snap when the bottle is opened. “As far as we know, it’s the first metal cap on a plastic beverage bottle—a hot-fill bottle,” added George. This created several challenges for the engineering team.

First, when hot-filling the PET bottle it shrinks, then pulls a vacuum. George explained that they needed to pull the vacuum on the top without distorting the bottle in any way. Second, the PET bottle had to work with existing manufacturing equipment. Lastly, the Snapple team had to ensure the plastic bottle would make the signature snap, a critical component of the project.

One of the keys to success was working with a company that had no preconceived notion about what could or could not be done. R&D/Leverage filled that bill. George noted, “We wanted to go in and say, ‘This is what we want to do; now how do we get there?’ Take the handcuffs off your engineering team and allow them to take us where we need to go.”

R&D/Leverage was able to achieve the look that Snapple wanted as well as replicate the snap sound. “Snapple worked really hard on its brand and the iconic look they’ve had over the years in the glass bottle,” commented Duncan Hardy, Director of Sales for R&D/Leverage. “Being able to accomplish that same look in plastic and maintain the attributes of the iconic shape and the snap feature was a technical struggle, but we achieved what Snapple required, including making the metal cap work.”

The manufacturing process was developed in R&D/Leverage’s lab under its product development program. “A lot of things about this project were very technically challenging,” said DPS’s George. “From a technical standpoint, R&D/Leverage is tops. They are truly good at packaging design and structure. We’ve dealt with R&D/Leverage for a number of years and I’ve personally dealt with the company for over a decade. It was natural to integrate them into this project to achieve the successful outcome we anticipated.”

R&D/Leverage USA provides concept development, validation and implementation. Its capabilities include full mold manufacturing for PET tooling, injection blowmold (IBM) tooling, injection molds, as well as unit tool development, testing, validation and training.

R&D/Leverage Europe, located in the United Kingdom, is a global supplier of single-stage blowmold tooling and provides product evaluation, tooling design, manufacturing and technical service assistance. The company also has on-site injection stretch blowmolding machines and offers pilot tooling, material trials, color trials and production tool qualification.

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