Coming to America

European converter Å&R Carton, with the help of Roberts PolyPro, has set its sights—and its two-piece OBC technology —on the US marketplace.

With 2,100 employees, 15 plants throughout the Western, Eastern, and Nordic regions of Europe, and a converting capacity in excess of 240,000 tons of carton board, Å&R Carton is in the business of supplying folding carton solutions across Europe. But with the open-basket carrier (OBC) in strong demand in the US, the company is poised to spark the interest of US converters in its two-piece OBC construction technology.

The two-piece design allows converters to get away from conventional right-angle gluing and into a faster straight-line method of folding and gluing — up to two or three times the production speeds of one-piece OBCs with conventional right-angle gluing.

Creating a Carton Company
Å&R Carton was established in January 2000 after two privately owned Finnish companies, Ahlstrom Corp. and CapMan, provided capital for the merging of the carton businesses of Å&R Group and FCP SA. The goal was to create a strong Pan-European company at the heart of the folding carton industry.

As Europe's third largest supplier of non-vertical, integrated, multi-pack packages, Å&R Carton supplies packaging constructions — sleeves, fully enclosed packaging, open-basket carriers, and top bridges for bottles — that serve several markets including beer and beverages, consumer goods, specialty packaging, confectionery, and tobacco.

Å&R Carton delivers competitively priced, innovative packaging and packaging machinery solutions to a growing customer base of multinational customers. However, being aware of the demand for OBCs in the US, Å&R Carton is ready to pursue a new market.

The one-piece OBC is the common package for six-packs of domestic and international brands of premium and super-premium beers in the US. That means more than 95% of Å&R Carton's OBC production is going — via its brewery customers — for export to the US.

“For the time being, OBCs are solely used for promotion actions in Europe,” explains Hilger Scheelcke, managing director of Å&R Carton North America. “With new concepts, Å&R Carton is working on the cost reduction for open-basket carriers by the use of new materials, so that an attractiveness for the mostly used multi-pack package, the open basket carrier, is provided.”

Getting Help from a Pro
In furthering its new technology, Å&R Carton knew it had to partner to develop specially designed equipment that would meet the challenges of its OBC.

“After intensive search and discussions with several machine manufacturers, we became convinced Roberts Polypro would be the suitable partner for this new development,” explains Scheelcke. “A contract concerning this project was signed in 1997. The contributing reason for this cooperation is based on the knowledge of Roberts PolyPro in two-piece packages made of corrugated cartons.”

Roberts PolyPro's Beverage Container Assembly Machine (BCAM) was developed specifically to produce Å&R Carton's two-piece OBC. Scheelcke comments the two-piece OBC created on the BCAM is lighter and stronger than the traditional one-piece carrier, and using solid unbleached sulfate (SUS) board for the body and recycled board for the inner divider also provides significant cost-savings.

Scheelcke says, “Provided that the material component — depending on the grade — takes 45 to 60 percent of the calculated costs, the following scenario results: A direct influence on the costs for the calculation price can only occur via state-of-the-art printing, die-cutting, and logistic effectiveness, as well as gluing.

“The OBCs have the same appearance as the existing one-piece carriers, but with an improved cost structure, no transportation risks for shipping, and a long-lasting design, and they meet adequate test procedures at the converter and brewery. Already more than 300 million OBCs, produced in Europe on the Roberts PolyPro BCAM, have been used by consumers in the United States,” says Scheelcke.

“For the consumer in the supermarket, no construction change can be seen. There will be no objections from the marketing department, which usually reacts very sensitively on constructive packaging design changes,” Scheelcke continues.

Å&R Carton believes an opportunity for the distribution of its unique and economical two-piece technology is in the allocation of licenses to US converters. The company aggressively pursued several prospects in the US and recently signed an agreement with Oklahoma-based Oracle Packaging. The licensing agreement allows Oracle to create Å&R Carton's two-piece technology using Robert PolyPro's BCAM.

With its two-piece technology and the BCAM, Å&R Carton believes US converters can bring improved, low-cost OBCs to the American marketplace. The first two-piece baskets produced in the US by Oracle Packaging will be seen on the US market in the first quarter 2004.

CONVERTER INFO
Å&R Carton

Funkschneise 19
D-28309 Bremen, Germany
+49 421 41 08-0; ar-carton.com


SUPPLIER INFO
Roberts PolyPro— PFFC-ASAP 305.
Charlotte, NC; 704/5881794; robertspolypro.com



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