More self-heating drinks cans to be launched

‘Reproduced from www.canmaker.com with the permission of Sayers Publishing Group’

Written by John Nutting

Drinks in self-heating cans developed in Malaysia are expected to be commercially launched in North America and Europe early in 2012.

To be sold under the Hot-Can brand, the canned drinks have been under development for almost nine years and are the brainchild of founder and chief executive Kenneth Kolb who since marketing a range of self-heating canned products in Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand in 2009 has set up a global network of sales offices.

The imminent launch of Hot-Can in Europe follows that of Fast Drinks 2005, the Barcelona manufacturer which is producing a range of coffee, chocolate and wine drinks under its 2GO brand alongside supplying other brands such as Energy Rocket Fuel in the UK.

But whereas Fast Drinks 2005 uses three-piece tinplate containers with components supplied by canmakers, Hot-Can uses aluminium cans made at its own canmaking and canning plant near Kuala Lumpur.

Almost US$10 million has been invested in the project, which Kolb says has been expanded over the past two years with capacity to make 200 million units a year. The D&I easy-open cans are fitted with a calcium oxide canister in the base which when activated by pressing a button mixes with water and heats the contents by 40 centigrade degrees above ambient in less than three minutes. This is the same process as used by Fast Drinks, and also by Nestlé for its Nescafé self-heating can project which was aborted about ten years ago.

Operations chief Jim Scudder, who has previous experience with self-heating containers having been involved with the Ontro project in the US, joined Hot-Can in 2009. Talking to The Canmaker before returning from Europe to the US where he is based at San Diego in California, he explained the background.

Technology for manufacturing the cans has been developed by Hot-Can itself. “Currently we are producing everything in Malaysia,” said Scudder. “We have our own canning facility and we do the whole process.” Scudder did not reveal further details of the canmaking process, except that the cans are produced from aluminium coil so are likely made using D&I techniques.

The Hot-Can range test marketed in the US market in 2010 he said, adding that in 2012 it will be launching a range of drinks with “two major chains”. Production is not large enough for a full national US launch “so we will be going division by division”. Asked about volumes in the US, he said, “We try to keep that close to our cuff but it’s reasonable, and by June it will be around 2m a month.”

Four types of soups, two coffee flavours, chocolate and tea are being offered in the Hot-Can range. To meet consumer preferences in both the US and European markets, the flavours will be adjusted before being shipped from Malaysia. Subject to demand increasing the cans could also be filled in Europe.

Kenneth Kolb was a medical researcher in the US before he moved to Malaysia in 1990 to work for a furniture manufacturer in product development. During a radio interview in 2009 he explained how he became involved with self-heating cans.

“Originally back in 1999 I invested in a company in the UK that was trying to do a similar product,” he said. “Unfortunately they were never able to achieve the goals that were set by the customers, which is heating up [the product] by 40 deg C in less than three minutes.

“But even though I invested in that and lost money I did learn my lesson and got the bug to figure out how make it work and I spent four years developing it, patenting it and another four years commercialising it. So it’s been eight years.”

In the Malaysian market, Kolb saw an opportunity to sell drinks with Halal certification, which once obtained would enable similar products to be also sold in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“Halal industry is becoming bigger and it’s becoming more powerful. Malaysia has a very good reputation in the Halal industry so we saw that as a must in launching our product.

We wanted to sell it in Indonesia, the Middle East, all those markets that are very dependent on Halal certification. By having Halal certification it doesn’t limit us from the rest of the global market.”

Kolb said that he viewed the Hot-Can more as a packaging product to be used by brand owners for filling with a range of drinks. “We are scheduled [to increase] production to 1.2 billion by 2017 and with that we’ll still be less than half a percent of the global beverage can market.

“We see this product more as a Tetra Pak, and our company as a Tetra Pak than we do as a Nestlé. We’re not in the business of making beverages, we’re in the business of making packaging technology.”

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About hotcaninc
I am the Creative Director for Hot Can, Inc. (www.hot-can.com) A self heating beverage company that creates coffees, cocoas, teas, and soups that get hot in 3 minutes, Anywhere, Anytime!

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